Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

From September 26- October 2 is Banned Books Week. This is an annual event from the American Library Association celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Did you know? Over the past eight years, American libraries were faced with 3,736 challenges.

1,225 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
1,008 challenges due to “offensive language”;
720 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;
458 challenges due to “violence”
269 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and further, 103 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 233 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”

And the top 10 most challenged books last year were:

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group
Can you imagine if you were told what books you could and couldn't read? Once when I was a teeanger in high school I was almost forced through shame and ridicule to stop reading certain books because others thought they were graphic or too dirty. I defied these opinions and stood up for my right to read whatever I want.
You do the same! Read a banned book this week or another book that others may frown upon. Stand up for your freedom to read what you like.
The ALA created this video with muppets to teach why banning such classic books is so very wrong.
How can you not love muppets?

I can't believe Alvin Schwrtz's Scary Stories is still a challenged book! I read this series over 15 years ago. And I think I turned out pretty okay.
What's your favorite challenged/banned book to read?



MicheleKS said...

Hmmm, which banned book should I pull off my shelf and read? I have so many, which is such a great thing.

I think my favorite challenged/banned book is 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger. I read this in 8th grade as a way of defying my 8th grade reading teacher who was the biggest b***h I ever had for a teacher. I silently dared her every day to say something about it but she didn't.

Liza said...

I have to go with To Kill a Mockingbird. Still one of my favorite books ever! I've loved it since I read it the first time in 7th grade. I try to re-read it at least once a year, but haven't had a chance yet this year.

Kailana said...

Funny that Gossip Girls is so challenged and there it is on tv! And in a list with The Kite Runner... Quite the contrast.

heidenkind said...

I can't believe Bless Me, Ultima, is a challenged book--and for occultism, no less! I vaguely remember reading that in high school and as far as I know there was nothing even remotely offensive about it.

SafeLibraries said...

These Banned Books Week resources may also be of interest:

"American Library Association Shamed," by Nat Hentoff, Laurel Leader-Call, 2 March 2007.

"Banned Books Week and the ALA," by Dennis Ingolfsland, The Recliner Commentaries, 4 August 2009.

"'Censors' Are So Scary," by Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, 6 October 2008.

"Finding Censorship Where There Is None," by Mitchell Muncy, Wall Street Journal, 24 September 2009, p.W13.

"National Hogwash Week," as coined by Thomas Sowell. And this resource has a long, updated list of BBW-related articles.

"US Libraries Hit Back Over Challenges to Kids Books," by Sara Hussein, Agence France-Presse [AFP], 6 September 2009.

"Various Humbugs Regarding Banned Books Week, by Mateo Palos, Mateo Palos, 27 September 2009.

RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thanks for the great post Katie.
I'll re-read Huckleberry Finn.
Hard to believe a book about penguins is the top censored book!
All the best,
twitter: @RKCharron

KMont said...

I am confused. I thought The Kite Runner was an "adult" book. As in, intended for an adult audience. I'm confused and wondering how could it be unsuited to age group?

I think if it's a kids or teen book, it ought to be up to the parent whether or not to let their child read it, but don't get it banned outright. Such damn silliness.

The only book on the list there that I hae and want to read is His Dark Materials, the first one. I went to Catholic school for nine years and even though I'm not Catholic myself I'm very interested to see what all the fervor is with this book. I know some people don't want to be preached at via a fictional book, whether that's religious or political viewpoint, but is it worth banning a book over? I suppose to some people it is.

Ironically enough, my security word this time is "guard". I think the world can choose it's own reading material without interference or the guarding of it by others.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Michele: I was surprised that I never had to read The Catcher in the Rye while in school. It is one of those books I think I need to read.

Liza: To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorites also. I love the father and daughter relationship. Funny how certain books have social commentary will fall under this list.

Kailana: I don't understand the appeal of Gossip Girl. But then here I am watching Dexter, a show about a serial killer! LOL

Heidenkind: Ohhh the occult is responsible for so many horrible things! Pfft.

SafeLibraries: Thanks for these links!

RK: Another book I have to still read!

Kmont: Everyone raves about the Kite Runner. Perhaps it is a no-no for teens because it is about two young boys? I thought it was a well respected must read book in the reading community.

I finally read His Dark Materials because of The Book Smugglers. I am Catholic and I don't see it preaching against religion at all.

orannia said...

Oh, I was wondering when this would appear. You post last year led me to borrow And Tango Makes Three from my local library...

Do you mind if I post about Banned Books Week and link to your post please?

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Orannia: I never knew! :D Go ahead.

abbee lee said...

Wow, this is not good...

MicheleKS said...

'The Catcher in the Rye' wasn't required reading for me. I read it because I'd heard so many 'bad' things about it. I love it because it's about flipping off phoniness and authority. And there is lots of 'colorful language' in it (the number-one reason it gets challenged).

bus said...

Thank god 3 Oct is last date of Banned week...