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Reading for freedom

FRISCO-Harry Potter has used plenty of spells to heal broken bones, fix glasses and make cars fly. He can even talk to snakes. But, he hasn’t mastered a spell to prevent his books from being challenged.For the fourth year in a row, the best-selling Harry Potter series of children’s books by J.K. Rowling has topped the list of books most challenged, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Potter series drew complaints from parents and other adults concerned about the books’ focus on wizardry and magic.The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 515 reports of written challenges related to the Potter series last year. As Potter’s popularity increases, so too do the complaints -they increased by 15 percent since 2001. And, that number only reflects a fraction of actual challenges. For every challenge reported in schools or libraries, four or five remain unreported, said Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom.For decades, opposers have been burning, banning and blaming such classics as John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” Even the American Heritage Dictionary and Bible haven’t escaped question.In celebration of the freedom to read – and to draw attention to current censorship issues – the ALA encourages libraries and bookstores to host Read-Outs during Banned Books Week, Sept. 20-27. Observed since 1982, the annual event reminds Americans not to take their democratic freedoms for granted.Local actionThe main library in Frisco will host Ben Helmke, who will dress up as Mark Twain and share the outspoken author’s views on imperialism. Dressed in a white suit- similar to one Twain wore the first time he spoke to Congress about copyright laws – Helmke will recite a few of Twain’s less common essays and public speeches.”People say he’s just unbelievable as far as getting into character and being Mark Twain,” said librarian Angie Halverstadt. “He knows Mark Twain in and out.””You get me going on Mark Twain, and I can go all day,” Helmke said. “He is always pertinent, and his way of raising an issue challenges people. When everyone says there is no problem, that’s when he says, “Oops, (there is one),’ and that’s when he gets into trouble.”After impersonating Twain, Helmke will break character and lead a discussion on banned books (though he’ll add Twain’s opinion on book-banning).Then Halverstadt will lead a discussion on the Patriot Act, which gives domestic intelligence agencies the right to check a library’s reader records and Internet usage.”(It interferes with) the First Amendment right that the ALA stands by – not telling people what they can and can’t read and what’s not appropriate,” Halverstadt said.”Our goal is to open minds within the county and to bring people together,” she said. “It’s the kind of thing where I’d like to see people get together and be able to speak about the books that they like to read without someone else telling them that’s not right. I personally think it’s important to know we are a country that can speak out for what we read. It’s really important that we can decide for ourselves what’s appropriate to read.”The Mark Twain and banned book discussion takes place at 7 p.m. Friday at the main library. It is a free event.Hamlet’s Bookshoppe and Weber’s Books & Drawings also will support Banned Books Week with discounts, displays of banned books and a drawing. Weber’s will offer 15 percent off any banned book in stock and conclude the week with a drawing for a $25 gift certificate for people who make purchases. Hamlet’s will take 25 percent off any banned book in stock and hold a banned book trivia contest. The winner of the drawing of trivia contestants will win a $50 gift certificate.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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