Written By: Marta Pelrine-Bacon (ESL Instructor, HOFT Institute ESL Program)
The subject of freedom comes up in many classes. What are Americans allowed to say? Can Americans go to jail for saying terrible things? Some students think Americans can write anything. Other students have been surprised to learn that the government has little to say about what authors publish.
Asked if any book should be banned, students give varied answers, but no matter their opinion, few students have heard of Banned Books Week. So, what does ban mean?
- Ban (transitive verb; past tense: banned; past participle: banned) – Officially or legally prohibit. Synonyms: Prohibit, Forbid, Veto, Disallow, Outlaw, Make Illegal, Block, Stop, Suppress, Enjoin, Restrain.
Banned Books Week, however, isn’t a week to ban books. No. The American Library Association began the week to promote the freedom to read. “The American Library Association promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.” Even in the United States, a country famous for its freedom of expression, some individuals wish to ban books. Most of us, however, want the freedom to read what we want to read. Go here to find out more about what books are currently being challenged, or go here to find out why this matters.
Many ESL students ask about improving their reading skills. Step one is finding something to read. And reading practice becomes much easier if you like what you’re reading. Need suggestions? Ask teachers. Go to a bookstore and ask a bookseller. Go to the American Library Association and see the books on their lists. You’ll find something, and you’ll have the freedom to read it.