Censorship of books continues. Parents, concerned citizens, individuals will request that a book be banned for different reasons: racism, sexual content, offensive language or a book unsuited to age group among many of them. The censorship usually begins on a local level but affects a larger audience. When a book does get banned, the entire library system may ban the book. So if it’s banned in Sterling, Washington, libraries in New York, New York and across the nation likely will not carry the book either.
In 1982, the American Library Association (ALA) began to “Celebrate the right to read”. Banned Books Week became a week-long event with posters and lists of recently banned and challenged books. This year marks the 30th anniversary. Between September 30, 2012 and October 6, 2012, libraries, bookstores and concerned citizens celebrate Banned Books week across the nation.
Reno Grassroots Books store manager, Geoff McFarland, interviewed on The Book Hound Radio show and a strong supporter of “banning the banning of books”, shared his frustration and desire for more people, especially parents, to be aware of the need for their involvement to prevent this practice.
Often, people think banning books is a thing of the past. As Robert Doyle points out in Books Challenged or Banned in 2010-2011, the freedom to choose what to read “is firmly rooted in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” Doyle emphasized, this is “not just someone expressing their opinion. The requests are for the removal of a book from schools and libraries.” Though the requests are well meaning, it restricts the rights of others guaranteed by the Constitution. Following are a few samples of books that were either banned or challenged in 2010-2011:
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Doubleday
Challenged at the Culpeper County, Va. public schools (2010) by a parent requesting that her daughter not be required to read the book aloud.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, Holt
Challenged at the Easton, Penn. School District (2010), but retained despite a parent’s claim the book promotes “economic fallacies” and socialist ideas, as well as advocating the use of illegal drugs and belittling Christians. It was banned in a Bedford, NH school district.
The Hunger Games, Scholastic
Challenged and presented to the Goffstown, N.H. school board (2010) by a parent claiming that it gave her eleven-year-old nightmares and could numb other students to the effects of violence.
Brave New World, Harper
Challenged at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Md. (2010) by a small group of parents who circulated a petition to have the book removed from use by county schools over concerns about explicit sexual content.
Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa, Macmillan
Challenged, but retained, at the San Luis Obispo, Calif. High School (2010) despite containing a passage that graphically details sexual assault. The book had been taught at the school for more than a decade without controversy.
The American Library Association provides comprehensive information about banned and challenged books and other library materials. Though their focus is on books for this event, there are constant challenges to magazines, newspapers, films, broadcasts, plays, performances, electronic publications and exhibits.
Join the ALA in their celebration of the right to read this week.