Banned Books Week, an annual event co-sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), celebrates the right to freedom of the press as outlined by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Individuals still challenge the right of libraries, schools and other institutions, though, to keep certain “objectionable” books on their shelves.
To commemorate Banned Books Week and the right to read, here are some uncensored numbers:
1982: The year the ALA celebrated the first Banned Books Week.
1990: The first year the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom began gathering statistics about banned books.
4,312: The number of challenges received by American libraries between 2001 and 2009. According to the American Library Association’s definition, a challenge is a formal and written complaint requesting that a book be removed from shelves because of objectionable content.
The ALA categorizes these 4,312 challenges as follows: 1,413 for “sexually explicit” material, 1,125 due to “offensive language,” 897 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group,” 514 challenges due to “violence,” 344 challenges due to “homosexuality,” 109 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and 269 because of their “religious viewpoints.
1,502: The number of challenges tabulated between 2001 and 2009 that occurred in classroom settings.
451: The temperature in degrees Fahrenheit that book paper catches fire and burns. Ray Bradbury used that scientific factoid to write “Fahrenheit 451,” a novel about a futuristic society in which reading is discouraged. In today’s world, some people who challenge books often stage book burnings in public places.
69: “Fahrenheit 451’s” ranking on the ALA’s “Top 100 Challenged/Banned Books: 2000-2009”
1979: The year that Katherine Patterson’s young adult novel “The Great Gilly Hopkins” received both the Newberry Honor Award and the National Book Award.
20: “The Great Gilly Hopkins” ranking on the ALA’s “Top 100 most frequently challenged books: 1990-1999.” Most of the challenges are due to the character of Gilly Hopkins, a foster child who frequently uses the words “damn” and “hell”.
65 million: Estimated number of books sold by prolific author Judy Blume. In 2005, Dr. Rick Schneider banned Blume’s ground-breaking young-adult novel “Forever” from the shelves of the Pasadena Independent School District.
4: The number of voyages taken by the title character in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (Gulliver’s final voyage took him to a world of talking horses who ruled over humans called Yahoos). Swift’s book was banned in Ireland in 1726 for obscenity and wickedness.