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Banned Books Week: What You Need to Know

Censorship is alive and well, as highlighted by Banned Books Week—and you might be surprised by who the most vocal challengers of books are.

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.

Gwinnett County Libraries caused a bit of controversy after banning the popular Fifty Shades of Grey book.

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 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

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:

The following events will take place nearby:

TELL US: Do you think books should be banned from schools, bookstores or libraries?

Paul L. Dragu September 30, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Just b/c the pages aren't visual porn, doesn't exclude it from being porn. BUt since I am a heavy advocate of the first amendment, I disagree with censorship. This issue isn't about censorship, it's about a lack of conviction. I am legally capable to drink myself till I die from alcohol poisoning, but I don't get drunk b/c I have convictions. The mind of people need to be changed so they won't want to read such filth. That stuff is for the birds.
Bonnie October 01, 2012 at 12:56 PM
As soon as I opened "Mapping Censorship," an full-page Obama add asked "Are you in? Donate here." Just thought someone should know.
Bonnie October 01, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I think pornography has no place in the public library. If people want to read it, they can buy it at a book store. We have to protect children from this material. People also shouldn't be viewing porn at the library. I don't want my children to accidentally come across it, or frankly, to be around someone who's looking at it.
Robert Thomas. Sr. October 01, 2012 at 09:45 PM
No one can disagree with you about visual porn on libary computers, but no one's talking about literary porn. The story talks about literature, and once you start banning books the divisions will eventually become such that eventually groups will be running around in the streets protesting, as they are now in many Islamic countries? Is the implementation of your literary dislikes worth that? Or,is the better approach reasonable control over one's own children and as to yourself acceptance of the well-known Roman maxim: "De gustibus non disputandum est."
Bonnie October 01, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Robert, I stand corrected. I agree-no censorship of literature,although drawing the line is tricky. Who decides when it crosses over? Still, if it's recognized as a literary work, I say keep it in the library and leave the decision up to the parents. I'll admit it - I don't speak Latin.

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