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.

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:


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

Charles Murray October 01, 2012 at 03:57 PM
NO BOOK should ever be "banned" from exhibit, sale, or possession; for any reason. Obviously there are some materials which are hateful, hurtful, or inflammatory, and those books perhaps would be better placed in more obscure locales (than on the regular shelves at the library). Private entities should be afforded the right to ban from their own establishment whatever they want to ban, but no government agency should be able to do so. I have said the following in other opinions I've written here and elsewhere: You cannot legislate common sense, and you cannot legislate fairness, intelligence or goodness. If I read a book which holds the Ku Klux Klan in good light, for instance, I will be appalled by the content, and will feel more like doing more to abolish that kind of hate, rather than to be offended by the book itself and place energy into getting the book banned. If I read a book about how to build a nuclear bomb, I strongly doubt I'm going to run downtown to round up the ingredients either. Books MUST, however, obey one particular law which protects us from their content if we decide it is inappropriate... Gravity. You can put the book down, and it will stay there. Charles
archie's bunker October 01, 2012 at 05:41 PM
criminal....who are these 'moralists'? A wedge issue used to further dumb-down a sleepy citizenry.
Linda Coburn October 01, 2012 at 06:04 PM
This is one of my favorites: Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary was pulled from Menifee Union School District [near Riverside] because a parent complained when a child came across the term "oral sex. Officials said the distrct is forming a committee to consider a permanent classroom ban of the dictionary. Really? This is where your school funding money is going. To form a committee to consider banning THE DICTIONARY.


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