I must live under a rock because I didn’t realize libraries are still banning books. In fact, I didn’t know that the American Library Association (ALA) hosted an annual Banned Book Week, formed to draw attention to the harms of censorship. Mark your calendars, folks, it’s September 26 – October 2 in 2021.
Last week, Clarisse, our book club coordinator, stumbled upon an article about banned books. Her Awesomeness forwarded the info to us. We were shocked to learn that we’d read one challenged and four banned novels. Such rebels!
ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books, then posts lists to inform the public about censorship efforts. According to the ALA, its literary censorship lists provide only a snapshot of book challenges. OIF estimates that about 82-97% of challenges remain unreported. Check out the lists:
For those of you also living under rocks, a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.
As I scanned the Young Adult list, I almost dropped my coffee cup. Many of the books that appear on high school reading lists are frequently challenged AND they’re award winners! Here are a few examples:
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (South African Boeke Prize)
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys (Nebula Award for Best Novel)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (The Pulitzer Prize)
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (Newbery Medal)
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker (The Pulitzer Prize)
I’m a firm believer in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment—Freedom of Speech. Can you imagine what lessons readers would miss by not having access to the above books? Because the challenged novels contain realistic scenes with offensive language, bullying, racism, and sexual harassment, they expose teen readers to issues they may have to address as adults. These books, though raw, reveal what results when the unthinkable happens. Ethical learning can come through reading fiction.
Please consider supporting the ALA. It’s easy to donate online.
How about you? What are your thoughts about banning books?