Coffee County Manchester Public Library is celebrating the freedom to read by participating with the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week Sept. 22-28.
Banned Books Week is an annual event typically held the last week of September. It highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
Despite the perception that censorship no longer occurs in the United States, attempts to ban books frequently take place in our schools and libraries.
According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), there were 464 reported attempts to remove or restrict materials from schools and libraries in 2012 and more than 17,700 attempts since 1990, when the ALA began to record book challenges.
Recently Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) called for a ban on the novel “The Bluest Eye,” stating that the book should be removed from libraries and the 11th Grade Common Core reading list because he believes the book is “highly objectionable” and has “no value or purpose.”
“The Bluest Eye” is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s first novel and is often included in honors and Advanced Placement English classes.
Holtzclaw’s demand is just one example of the kinds of book challenges that, if successful, deny students and their parents the right and the freedom to choose books and literature that contain diverse ideas drawn from across the social and political spectrum.
“The ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely is a fundamental freedom that sustains and upholds our democratic society,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “Banned Books Week serves as an opportunity to remind all of us that the freedom to choose books for ourselves and our family is a right, not a privilege.”
Book challenges to school library materials are not the only threat to students’ freedom of inquiry. Online resources, including legitimate educational websites and academically useful social networking tools, are being blocked and filtered in school libraries.
In an effort to raise awareness, the American Association of School Libraries (AASL), a division of the ALA, has designated one day during Banned Books Week as Banned Websites Awareness Day – Wednesday, Sept. 25 – and is asking school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how excessive filtering affects student achievement.
The following list is taken from the ALA’s top 10 most frequently challenged books list of 2012 ,part of the State of America’s Library Report on Monday, April 15.
- The “Captain Underpants” series, by Dav Pilkey is challenged because of offensive language and suggestion that it is unsuited for age group.
- “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie is chanrged with containing offensive language, racism, sexually explicit content and that it is unsuited for age group
- “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher, is criticized for containing drug and alcohol use smoking, sexually explicit content, suicide and being unsuited for age group
- “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James, is challenged for inclusion in public libraries for containing offensive language and sexually explicit content.
- “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is challenged for homosexuality themes and for being unsuited for age group.
- “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, is challenged for inclusion in public libraries for homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint and sexually explicit content.
- “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green, is challenged because of offensive language, sexually explicit content and accusations of being unsuited for age group
- The “Scary Stories” series, by Alvin Schwartz, is challenged for not being suited for age group and violence.
- “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls, has meet charges that it contains offensive language and is sexually explicit.
- “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison, has been challenged for sexually explicit, religious viewpoint and violence.