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ART Event promotes freedom to read during Banned Books Week

Most Americans know about the presidential contest in November, but Rochester Public Library is urging Americans to "Elect to Read: a Banned Book" today through Oct. 2 in honor of this year's Banned Books Week.

Observed since 1982, the annual event reminds Americans not to take for granted their freedom to read. Bookstores and libraries nationwide will have displays and readings from books -- ranging from the Bible and "Little Red Riding Hood" to John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" -- that have been banned or threatened throughout history. The Rochester library will have displays, posters and materials available about the week.

Each year, the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were challenged by people who asked that they be removed from school or library shelves. In 2003 the office received reports of 458 challenges, defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series topped the list in 2003, ending the four-year reign of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.

Rounding out the top five most challenged books in 2003 were "Of Mice and Men" for offensive language; "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles, for inaccuracy; and "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, sexual content, offensive language, drugs and violence.

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The week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores.

For more information or to learn about materials available locally, contact Katherine Stecher, Rochester Public Library at 285-8008.

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