Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Blind Date with a Banned Book

Banned Books Week 2013 will be celebrated September 22 – 28. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.[i] The American Library Association compiles data each year regarding the number of book challenges filed in the United States. A challenge is defined as a formal written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The Office of Intellectual Freedom also gathers data from newspaper articles regarding book challenges.

In 2012 there 464 reported challenges. Of course, no one knows how many challenges go unreported. The following are the 10 most challenged books of 2012 according to the ALA.[ii]

1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
     10.  Beloved, by Toni Morrison

This means censorship still happens in this country. Just last month Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw called for Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye to be banned from school’s in that state. Book challenges do not just happen elsewhere book challenges happen here in our own backyards. A Fairfax County parent took her fight to have Toni Morrison’s Beloved banned from her child’s school to the Virginia Board of Education in February. Feed by M.T. Anderson was challenged in 2012 in Greene County by parents of a high school freshman. In 2011 A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was pulled from the sixth grade reading list in Albemarle County. A parent complaint in 2010 led the Culpeper County Public Schools to use an edited version of The Diary of Anne Frank in its eighth grade classrooms. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was challenged in 2009 in the Roanoke County Public Schools. In 1995 a Rockingham County parent challenged the book Run with the Horsemen. This parent filed objections to the book after her Spotswood High School freshman son was given the book to read.

Your freedom to read is directly linked to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  Without freedom of speech an author’s ability to write is limited to topics approved by a third party. Without freedom of the press a publisher’s ability to provide you the reader with a variety of viewpoints on various topics is restricted. As a reader you need to fight for the protection of the First Amendment. One way to do that is to read books that have been banned/challenged.

During Banned Books Week a display of banned and/or challenged books can be found at MRL’s Main branch. The books wrapped in brown paper contain a blurb describing at least one reason the item was banned or challenged in the past. You are invited to check these books out, take them home, unwrap them, read them, and then respond to this blog telling us what book you read, whether you would have challenged the book for the same reasons, and any other thoughts you have about your banned book. 

So, exercise your freedom to read and support an author’s freedom of speech and a publisher’s freedom of the press. Which banned book are you reading?

[i] Banned Books Week Celebrating the Freedom to Read. http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/about  
[ii] Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century. http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

1 comment:

  1. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
    Steig won a Caldecott medal in 1970 for this book.
    All of the characters are animals. Sylvester and his parents are donkeys. When Sylvester goes missing his parents seek help from the police who are pigs. The book was challenged and banned in parts of the USA because of it perpetuated the stereotype of cops being referred to as pigs.