Each year, libraries all over the country receive challenges to materials that are available for patron use. Some of these are school and public libraries, but others are academic libraries and selections for college classes. While it might not be immediately obvious, these challenges are, in fact, a form of censorship. As such, librarians report challenges to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools.
The ALA condemns censorship, and in an effort to raise awareness about how it works in the “real world,” each fall, librarians observe Banned Book Week. Last fall, I shared a post discussing censorship in libraries and its potential to sensationalize largely benign books. In the interest of keeping things light for National Library Week, I’ve decided to look through the lists of Top Ten Challenged Books throughout the last twelve years.
I should head this list off by adding that I find absolutely none of these books offensive. Furthermore, I was only required to read one of them in school. I’m a huge proponent of making information widely available, but certainly not forcing people to read anything.
Finally, the Challenged Book Game:
- Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (2013, 2012)
- The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (2003, 2002, 2001)
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2013, 2011, 2010)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (2011, 2009)
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2008)
- Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2010)
- The Scary Stories Series by Alvin Schwartz (2012)
- Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (2010, 2009)
Bear in mind, that these were from the top ten challenged lists between 2001 and 2013, and are based only on those challenges that are reported — many may not be reported. Most of these were challenged because they are “unsuited for age group” (what non-child wants to read Scary Stories?) or because they are “sexually explicit” (what copy of The Hunger Games did that person read?).
The point that I am making is that books that are near and dear to our hearts are challenged every year. While books like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Kite Runner definitely deal with mature content, it is reasonable to make them available to the public, and children because they say important things about human nature and history. And although Fifty Shades of Grey might not be considered “great literature” by some people, who are we to tell people what they ought to or ought not to read?
No one is forcing you to read it anyway.
If you have some time, take a stab at the Challenged Book Game. What books from the Top Ten lists have you read? Did you find them objectionable?