Independents Celebrate Banned Books Week With FREADOM

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This year's celebration of Banned Books Week (September 23 - 30) is in full swing, and many ABA member booksellers are using the occasion to emphasize the importance of protecting readers' First Amendment rights.

"For 25 years, Banned Books Week has been building support to ensure that our citizens' First Amendment freedoms are protected, especially in those challenging times that always follow national emergencies, such as 9/11," said Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, one of the sponsors of the event. "We are very grateful to the booksellers who are participating in Banned Books Week this year. They are playing a critical role in getting out the message that we must not sacrifice free speech even as we struggle to assure national security."

Among the new materials that stores with Book Sense are using to promote the weeklong event are limited edition "FREADOM" gift cards. The card features an illustration created by Roger Roth for the book, The American Story: 100 True Tales From American History (Jennifer Armstrong, Random House Children's). It depicts the Statue of Liberty holding her torch in one hand and reading a book in the other. When a customer purchases a FREADOM gift card, 10 percent of the activation sale is automatically donated to ABFFE.

Roth's artwork is also featured in a poster that incorporates ABFFE's popular FREADOM logo. Permission to use the artwork was granted by Random House Children's Books and Alfred A. Knopf.

"The iconic Statue of Liberty image, which originated with one of our books, has been such an inspiring visual theme for this year's 'Banned Books Week' promotion," said Random House Director of Independent Bookselling Ruth Liebmann. "The FREADOM cards can help spark discussions between booksellers and their customers not only in September, but throughout the year."

Many booksellers are promoting Banned Books Week through in-store or window displays highlighting books that have been challenged this year or in the past, and making prominent use of the Statue of Liberty image.

Annie Bloom's Books

"We did a display in the front window using ABFFE materials and using materials from the [Fall 2006] Banned Books [Book Sense] Top Ten Picks and the American Library Association list," said Will Peters, manager of Annie Bloom's Books in Portland, Oregon. "We also liberally sprinkled the ABFFE [FREADOM] gift cards in the window." In addition, the store has incorporated red, white, and blue bunting into the window display along with the slogan "Who's Reading Over Your Shoulder?"

Eight Cousins

At Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Massachusetts, Denise Johnson told BTW, "Ever year we do a display of every book that has been banned that is in stock." She said she also updated ABFFE's print resource manual with titles that have recently been challenged.

The resource manual is left on the counter at the cash wrap so that customers can peruse it. The store also carries the FREADOM gift cards, too, and, she reported, "A lot of people have chosen them."

Ninth Street Book Shop

"We're big supporters of Banned Books Week," said Jack Buckley of Ninth Street Book Shop in Wilmington, Delaware. He said the store had a window display, which was designed by his wife. "We now have people who actually window shop! It's very effective. We display books from previous years and then add in books that were challenged in the past year, which we highlight in the middle of the window." The store also features an in-store ABFFE collection box and promotes the FREADOM gift card along with other Book Sense gift cards, and, Buckley added, "That will be ongoing."

Banned Books Week is "important for a number of reasons," Annie Bloom's Peters said. "Books are constantly being challenged.... It brings awareness to this."

Of the Banned Books Week display, Buckley said, "We always get comments. It's funny how young people will say, I can't believe they banned this book! It's general education."

For more information on ABFFE and Banned Books Week, go to --David Grogan