Banned Books Week is held annual in September to spotlight current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and 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.
The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.
Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content. Today, Banned Books Week coverage by mainstream media reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers. The Banned Books page remains one of the top two most popular pages on the American Library Association (ALA) website.
Books are still being banned and challenged today. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.
While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 347 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2018. Of the 483 books challenged or banned in 2018, the Top 10 Most Challenged Books are:
1. George by Alex Gino
Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character
2. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints
3. Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references
5. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes
6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide
7. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations
8. Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture
9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint
10. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content
The Ainsworth Public Library has put up a display to highlight some of the books that have challenged or banned through the years. We have a wagon full of books with the sign that reads “Jump on the Banned Wagon”. Each book has the reason listed for being requested for removal from libraries and readers. You might be surprised and shocked, as some are classics that are loved by many. Please stop by the library and look the display over. You might even want to check out of one or two of them.
Censorship leaves us in the dark. Keep the light on!