The importance of the First Amendment and the concept of "intellectual freedom" might not always be readily apparent to most kids, but Banned Books Week is a great opportunity to make those lessons come alive for children—and adults.
Banned Books Week is held annually during the last week of Sept. (Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2012). The week is an occasion for libraries and bookstores across the U.S. to help folks realize just how real and ongoing a problem censorship is.
More than 11,000 books have been challenged (though not necessarily successfully censored) since 1982, the inaugural year of Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association (ALA), the vast majority of challenges to books are initiated locally by parents, likely in well-meaning attempts to protect their children.
Last year, there were 326 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, based on everything from offensive language, to violence, insensitivity, religious viewpoint and sexual explicitness. In addition to those challenges, the ALA estimates that as many as 60 to 70 percent of challenges may go unreported.
Over the past year, the 10 most challenged titles, according to the ALA, were:
1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Among banned and challenged classics you’re likely familiar with are:
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
- The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
- Beloved and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Easttown Library and Information Center is commemorating Banned Books week with a documentary film screening. According to a news release from the library"
On Sunday, September 30th at 2:00pm the Easttown Library will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. It will feature a made-for-cable docudrama based on an adult fiction book. Running 86 minutes, it raises fascinating and difficult questions about our most cherished freedom. It is rated PG-13.
The plot deals with a First Amendment scholar who is recruited by an attorney to sue a publishing company after a hit man commits a triple murder by allegedly following a how-to manual the book company published. Arguing that the publisher is not protected by the First Amendment, the crusading lawyers seek monetary damages for the victim’s families. The film vividly depicts the impact of censorship on individuals and society and begs the question- can a book incite the reader to kill?
“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. Banned Books Week 2012 marks its 30th anniversary.
If you’re interested in celebrating Banned Books Week as part of a lesson for your kids—or simply to feel like a rebellious reader—check out these additional resources:
- Mapping Censorship, a visual representation of places books have been challenged in the US, created from cases documented by the ALA and the Kids’ Right to Read Project
- Virtual Read-Out, a worldwide celebration of the freedom to read, featured on a dedicated Banned Books Week YouTube channel
- State-by-state listing of BBW events
- Banned Books Week on Facebook and Twitter
- Free BBW downloads from the ALA, like badges and Facebook cover art
Do you think books should be banned from schools, bookstores or libraries? Tell us in the comments section at the bottom of this article.