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We live in a free society where all people should be able to speak their opinions without fear of retribution or censorship. Sadly though, this is not true due to the increased censorship of books in schools and public libraries. This is where Banned Books Week comes in.

Banned Books Week is a yearly event sponsored by the American Library Association to celebrate freedom and the importance of the First Amendment. It began last Saturday and runs until Saturday. During this week, people are encouraged to read books that were previously banned or challenged based on the content in the book. The week supports free speech in classic and contemporary literature and knowledge of the effect that reading can have on society.

What causes people to challenge and attempt to ban a book? There are a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with controversial content that may go against their beliefs. This creates a problem when people try to censor what the public as a whole is allowed to read, rather than each person making this decision for him or herself.

Some previously banned or challenged books include "The Catcher in the Rye," "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "A Wrinkle in Time," "Winnie-the-Pooh," "The Great Gatsby," "Charlotte's Web" and the Harry Potter and Junie B. Jones series.

"I think that Banned Books Week is very important, even though many people don't know about it," says Erin Miller, a senior at Orchard Park High School. "People don't really pay attention to the possible things that could happen when books get censored. They stop thinking for themselves and end up following someone else's ideas without knowing the consequences of them."

Want to know some ways to show your support this Banned Books Week? You can start by making people aware of the dangers that may come as a result of the censorship of books. Tell your parents, your friends, your teachers -- anyone who can help you in this fight against ignorance. Take a stand -- don't just sit by and watch as our right to free speech is slowly taken away from us.

Do your research. The banning of books takes place all around the world. Look into what books are being banned in other countries and in other areas of the United States.

Finally, be sure to read as many banned books as you can. You never know what you might find and you'll definitely learn a lot.

For more information about Banned Books Week, go to ala.org/bbooks or ask your librarian.

Jenna Kersten is a sophomore at Mount Mercy Academy.