Banned Books Week (September 27 - October 4)

Banned Books Week (September 27 - October 4)

Support the First Amendment, Read a Banned BookSeptember 27th marks the beginning of the 27th annual Banned Books Week in the United States (in Canada a similar event called Freedom To Read happens February 22 - 28, 2009). This yearly American Library Association event “celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

In 2007 the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) received 420 reports of book challenges (“A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school.”) but while public libraries, schools and school libraries report challenges, the majority of them go unreported.

Below you'll find a list of the most challenged books of 2007, a list which was topped, for two years in a row, by a “children’s book about two male penguins caring for an orphaned egg.” Obviously some people find that idea objectionable and would like to impose those objections on others but most of us firmly believe our choice of reading material should be left in our own hands, thanks!

The 10 Most Challenged Books of 2007 (info from the ALA website)

 1. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

 2. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

 3. “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

 4. “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

 5. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

 6. “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

 7. “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

 8. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually ExplicitThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

 9. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

 10. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

So what can do we do to fight censorship? The ALA offers advice here. The National Coalition Against Censorship has a toolkit for dealing with censorship in schools up at their website. Random House is featuring a First Amendment First-Aid Kit which includes a list of strategies for battling book challenges, a sample letter to media to raise awareness when censorship issues arise and more.

To celebrate BBW you might want to exercise your intellectual freedom by reading a frequently challenged book like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, A Wrinkle in Time, Native Son, Annie on my Mind or Cujo. Yup, you might be surprised what you find on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 list!

“Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
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