I am currently serving as the chair of NCTE's Standing Committee against Censorship. As such, I am generally in the loop when it comes to reports coming in to NCTE about challenges. NCTE can send letters of support to teachers and librarians and others battling censorship in their schools, districts, libraries, etc. They also have wonderful policy statements already in place that you might want to have on hand BEFORE a censorship issue arises. You can check here for some resources: http://www.ncte.org/action/anti-censorship
Another helpful resource is the National Coalition Against Censorship (www.ncac.org). Judy Blume is on the board of directors, folks. I joined this organization about 20 years ago as they also help fight censorship. You should also belong to the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) which you can join here: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/affiliates/relatedgroups/freedomtoreadfoundation/index.cfm and join in where Free People Read Freely.
Since this is the beginning of Banned Books Week (BBW), visit the ALA site where you will find loads of materials about censorship: http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/index.cfm
Finally, KNOW THINE ENEMY. Here are two sites which serve up censorship hot 24 hours a day. PABBIS is PARENTS AGAINST BAD BOOKS IN SCHOOLS. I mean, c'mon, how can you argue against that? (www.pabbis.org) What you will find at their site is chilling. And COMMON SENSE MEDIA masquerades as a guide for "busy" parents who do not have time to read, watch TV, or see movies with their kids. So, instead, they will do all the heavy lifting and tell you which books are OK and which are IFFY and which are UH-UHS. You can find this helpful guide at www.commonsensemedia.org Why is this censorship, some will ask. Take a look of how they rate books. Ellen Hopkins' IDENTICAL, for example, is criticized for using consumerism because it mentions Wild Turkey and OxyContin. It is rated as IFFY for ages 17 and up. Sorry, kids you do not get to read this book unless you are 18, I guess. Add in bad messages, too much violence and sex and drinking and drugs and, well, there you have it. A poignant novel in verse that speaks to readers well below the 17 year old suggestion. A book about incest and parental abuse and teens searching for help and hope. It is enough to make you crazy!
Any system that labels and uses age bands is, in effect, censoring. That is one of the nits I have to pick with programs that purport to help students select appropriate books (by lexiles, reading levels especially). Speak is 4.5 RL and a low lexile as well. For computerized programs, that means that readers beyond 5th grade cannot read it for "credit." Great. BTW, the Texas ACLU last year indicated that they found many challenges to books in schools had come about because books were not age appropriate (like maybe having SPEAK in an elementary school for those 3rd graders reading above grade level?). And, IDENTICAL is 3.8 RL with a lexile score of 590.
OK, lecture over for a Sunday. Preaching to the choir in any event. Tune in next week for more fun BBW activities and postings.
And head on over to www.speakloudly.org and join up, too.