Banned Books Week September 23-30 2006
“[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.” — Judy Blume
"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas," The One Un-American Act." Nieman Reports, vol. 7, no. 1 (Jan. 1953): p. 20.
Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. This year, 2006, marks BBW's 25th anniversary (September 23-30).
BBW 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. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.
One of the most challenged titles includes the “Harry Potter” series of fantasy books for children by J.K. Rowling. Some parents, among others, believe the books promote witchcraft to children. However, the “Harry Potter series has probably done more to get children reading than any other books published since the 1950’s. How can this be a bad thing?
Other “Most Challenged” titles include: "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, sexual content, offensive language, drugs and violence; “It's Perfectly Normal,” a sex education book by Robie Harris, for being too explicit, especially for children; "King and King" by Linda de Haan, for homosexuality; and “We All Fall Down” by Robert Carmier, for offensive language and sexual content.
Atop the 2004 most challenged book list is "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier. Here are some complaints according to the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom.
“The book drew complaints from parents and others concerned about the book's sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint and violence.”
Also three of the 10 books on the "Ten Most Challenged Books of 2004" were cited for homosexual themes; the highest number in a decade. Offensive language and sexual content are the most frequent reasons given by those seeking removal of books from schools and public libraries.
The most frequently challenged, are:
"The Chocolate War" for sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being unsuited to age group and violence
"Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, offensive language and violence
"Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles, for inaccuracy and political viewpoint
Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, for offensive language and modeling bad behavior
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky, for homosexuality, sexual content and offensive language
"What My Mother Doesn't Know" by Sonya Sones, for sexual content and offensive language
"In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak, for nudity and offensive language
"King & King" by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, for homosexuality
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, for racism, homosexuality, sexual content, offensive language and unsuited to age group
"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, for racism, offensive language and violence
Banning of books is goes against one of our most basic freedoms and cannot be condoned. Do your part by visiting the ALA and making use of their promotional information. And, join the Blue Ribbon campaign.
First Amendment Basics
“Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof; or Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble, and To Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances.” — First Amendment
For more information on “Banned Books Week,” visit the American Library Association website.