Historically, there have probably always been people whose response to ideas they didn’t like was not to present a different viewpoint, but to try to forcibly quiet the people with those ideas. This has been applied in many different ways, but none quite so obvious or pervasive as in banning books.
Since 1982, the last week of September has been Banned Books Week in the U.S., in which Americans are encouraged to celebrate our freedom by reading books that have been banned, or at least on which an attempt has been made to ban them. People are also encouraged to talk about the books, attend events to discuss the history of censorship, and to talk with their friends and loved ones about the importance of freedom of speech. The official website has a list of various other things you can do to fight censorship as well.
There are, as ever, many very excellent books on the list of ones people in the U.S. have tried to censor in 2008. Among many others: Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; and, of course, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. If you don’t think censorship is really still that widespread in this country today, the official website has a map that will show you how (unfortunately) wrong you are. There are still people who try to censor such classics as Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because of course it contains the n-word — never mind the fact that it’s written in first-person from the point of view of a boy who would certainly have used that word, and the fact that the escaped slave Jim is the most honorable character in the book.
So celebrate your freedom, and take the opportunity to teach your kids that there is no idea so dangerous it cannot be discussed. Read a banned book or two this week.