This Is Banned Books Week!! Read a Book, Attend an Event and Support Libraries

Published Sep 26, 2008

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Banned Books Week, held during the last week of September every year, celebrates the intellectual freedom to read. You can show your support for this precious freedom by reading those books that have been challenged, restricted and outright banned. You may also participate in one of the many banned book events being held around the country. This article highlights some of the most frequently challenged books, as well as information that will help you support this important annual event.

Banned

There are thousands of people out there who want to control what you read. Every year, they target libraries and schools to request that certain books be removed from shelves or eliminated from school curriculums. This outrageous censorship undermines our freedom and squashes our right to think and decide things for ourselves.

Who Challenges Books and Why

In the first five years of the 21st century, the American Library Association reported more than 3,000 attempts to ban books from school and public libraries. Most of the challenges came from parents, library patrons, teachers and administrators. However, there were also an alarming number of challenges from the government, elected officials and religious groups:

Banned

The reasons why people challenge books vary. Some don't like the religious viewpoints of certain books; others are opposed to sexually explicit content, violence and questionable language. No matter what their reasons are for challenging books, these people all have one thing in common: they want to restrict the access to certain books. This desire to censor what other people read is more than an expression of personal views; it is an attempt to take away personal freedom and control how other people think and feel.

Read a Banned Book

There are more than 7,800 books that have been challenged since 1990, according to the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). If it weren't for the hard work of librarians and other concerned citizens, challenged books could easily become banned books. You can support their efforts and celebrate Banned Books Week by reading one of these books that they helped to save in 2007.

The Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2007

  • And Tango Makes Three - Written by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell, this true story about two male penguins from the Central Zoo who fall in love and nurture an abandoned egg has been called everything from anti-ethnic to anti-family.
  • The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier's story of a boy who refuses to sell chocolate for his high school is widely considered to be one of the best young adult books ever written. It is also frequently challenged by people who call it violent and sexually explicit.
  • Olive's Ocean - Written by Kevin Henkes, this coming of age story tells the tale of a girl's annual summer visit to New England. Those who challenge the book deem it too profane and sexually explicit for young readers.
  • The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman's fantasy novel has been challenged time and time again by religious people who dislike the book's use of magic and other plot devices.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain's classic novel is a constant on lists of the most frequently challenged books. Most formal complaints cite racism and the use of the 'N' word.
  • The Color Purple - Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize winning feminist novel about a woman's struggle for self-empowerment frequently inflames people who have a problem with homosexuality and offensive language.
  • TTYL Lauren Myracle's novel, which consists of IM transcripts between three high-school girls, has been deemed unsuited for its age group because of sexually explicit content and offensive language.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou's beautifully written autobiography has been on this list for years due to its sexually explicit content.
  • It's Perfectly Normal - Robie Harris's frank and occasionally graphic book about puberty and sex is frequently challenged by parents who disapprove of open sex education.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky's coming of age novel has received numerous challenges from people citing sexually explicit content, references to homosexuality, offensive language and a myriad of other reasons.

How to Support Banned Book Week

There are many different libraries and bookstores that will be holding events in the upcoming week. Attending these events or volunteering to help is a good way to show you support the freedom to read and think for yourself. You can see a list of events by state on the Official Banned Books website.

Some other ways you can get involved:

  • Encourage your neighbors, friends and relatives to celebrate Banned Books Week with you.
  • Organize a banned books celebration at your local school, library or bookstore.
  • Participate in the Intellectual Freedom Action Network to support the freedom to read in your community.
  • Educate others about the evils of censorship and the importance of freedom.
  • Write a local newspaper column or letter encouraging other people to read banned books this week.
  • Join the Freedom to Read Foundation to fight for your freedom to read without government interference.
  • Get actively involved in school boards, library boards and other boards that respond to book challenges.
  • Buy Banned Books Week materials from the American Library Association's online store.

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