Posts Tagged ‘Banned books’

AbsolutelyTrueDiary-SAlexie2I’m always glad to see that more and more publicity is given to banned books. Why? Because to me, banning books is the same as infringing on the right to free speech, except in print. Simple, right? Maybe even obvious.

I’ve pictured here the cover of number one of the ten top most frequently challenged YA (young adult) books in America, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s a YA novel about a boy on the Spokane reservation who starts going to an all-white farm-oriented high school. (I apologize for the blandness and brevity of that description, but I’m not going for a book review in this post, so please do read more about it.) However, this novel also tops the list of ALL of the top ten banned or challenged books of 2014.

Why is it challenged/banned? The ALA, (American Library Association) provides the following reasons:”anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”.

Hmmmm  – everything teenagers are facing in everyday life nowadays.

But don’t take my word for it – please read more on the ALA’s page on banned and challenged books, how they come up with their determinations, and many more links, including the top hundred most challenged book by decade. This is fascinating reading to me because I am always amazed that in a country which so strongly defends freedom of speech, we want to burn those words when they’re written down.

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CharlottesWeb2This Sunday, September 21, marked the beginning of Banned Books Week which celebrates the freedom to read. An annual event organized by the American Library Association, (the same people that award the Caldecott and Newbery Medals) , Banned Books Week is sponsored by a number of organizations who are against censorship. The website presents a wealth of information on books that are and have been banned, by whom and why, plus activities for teachers to discuss the important issues of censorship, banned books and the books themselves with their students. Additional information on Banned Books Week can be found on the ALA’s own site. On this site you can also find the 10 most frequently challenged books by year. In 2001, the most frequently challenged book was Harry Potter with John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men right behind.

The most common reasons for censorship are drugs, nudity, violence, offensive language, sexually explicit, anti-family, homosexuality, racism, religious viewpoint, suicide and unsuited to age group but there are a few others.

A fascinating article on BuzzFeed is about fifteen children’s classics that have been banned, where and why. This includes James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Granted some of these were banned  quite some time ago, and some by local municipalities, but some were banned as recently as 2010.

I don’t know about you, but I find this all fascinating. Censorship is no small issue, and the facts about who censors which books and why is an insight into the fabric of this country – what we, as a people, are afraid of, offended by and threatened by to such a degree that we can’t allow our children to read about it. As best I can tell, it’s usually the truth.


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Did you know that the American Library Association (ALA) – who bestows the John Newbury Medal and Randolph Caldecott Medal (among others) – holds an Annual Banned Book Week? I was very interested in this and went to their web site which has extensive sections on not just their greatest concern – the 1st Amendment – but also lists of the books in question sorted by different criteria.

Among their lists are: the 100 most challenged/banned classics, and the details of who banned/burned/and/or challenged them and why; the most challenged/banned books sorted by decade, author, year, plus statistics.  Some books are banned by entire countries, entire states in our own United States, by schools, religious groups and others. Who would have thought that so many people on the planet thought they had a right to tell us what we can and can’t read?

Looking just at children’s books for a moment, here is a partial list from among 100 books for all age audiences banned or challenged in the last decadeHarry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling (Harry’s number 1!); His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman; Captain Underpants (series), by Dave Pilkey; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain; Forever, by Judy Blume; Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous; Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar: In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak; Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson; Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park; A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle; Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine; Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume and oh-so-many more.

What are they kidding me?! Be afraid, people, be very afraid … clearly there are lots of others out there who think they know what’s best for you, me and our children. I am alternately scared, disgusted and outraged. Well, the good thing is that the ALA has this extensive web site which supports intellectual freedom and the upholding of the First Amendment. On the ALA OIF (Office of Intellectual Freedom) section of their site, there are ideas, resources and activities for teachers and parents who believe in the freedom to learn, and various events for the week.

Think you should decide what you and/or your children reads? This may be a site you want to check out.

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