What do John Steinbeck, Maya Angelou, Harry Potter, J. D. Salinger and Captain Underpants have in common? They are authors of or characters in “banned” books!
Every year, libraries receive hundreds of requests to remove certain books or materials from their shelves. Individuals and groups challenge a book’s suitability for a library’s collection because of objectionable or inappropriate material or content. The most recent and visible example of this is a metro-Atlanta parent’s attempt to remove the Harry Potter series from school library shelves because of the belief that the books promote witchcraft to children.
Banned Books Week emphasizes and celebrates the readers’ right to choose, access and read any book they want. People challenge books with the best of intentions, and libraries take these challenges seriously. But part of the mission of most libraries is to uphold the right of individuals to have access to books and materials of varying viewpoints and ways of expression, as well as the authors’ right to free speech and expression. Upholding these rights often conflict with the convictions and interests of the challenger, resulting in heated struggles like the Harry Potter incident. (Click here to see the outcome of the incident)
Banned Books Week also celebrates books that were or are challenged or truly banned because of their unorthodox or controversial content or theme. Titles range from silly stories, such as the Captain Underpants series, to those by revered authors, like Steinbeck and Angelou, to classics like Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye and even The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Children’s and Young Adult books are most often challenged because of content deemed unsuitable for children. Of the ten titles on the American Library Association’s 2006 List of Most Challeged Books, eight are Children’s or Young Adult titles.
Banned Books Week runs from September 29 to October 6 this year. Check the websites below for more information, and for lists of challenged book titles. Then exercise your right to choose and read!
Amnesty International’s Banned Books Week page, concerning individuals who are persecuted because of their writings.
Books A to Z Banned Books and Censorship page
Sources for this article:
““And Tango Makes Three” tops ALA’s 2006 list of most challenged books.” American Library Association. 2007.
http://www.ala.org/ala/pressreleases2007/march2007/mc06.htm (Accessed 24 Sep, 2007)
“Banned Books Week.” American Library Association. 2006.
http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/mediarelationsa/factsheets/BannedBooksWeek.htm (Accessed 24 Sep, 2007)
Hutchins, Laura L. Banned Book Week: What is Banned Book Week all about? Bainbridge, GA: Decatur County Gilbert H. Gragg Library, 2007.
Hutchins, Laura L. Banned Books: Top 10 most challenged books of 2006. Bainbridge, GA: Decatur County Gilbert H. Gragg Library, 2007.