During Banned Books Week, the Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), as part of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes awareness of the hundred of challenges on books brought to their attention each year.
Books are most often challenged and banned, according to the ALA, from schools and school libraries, and these challenges are most often initiated by parents.
The interest of protecting children from harm is a natural instinct to all parents. Parents want to give their children materials and experiences that enrich and nurture them, and keep them from that which may disturb them. And parents have a right and responsibility to monitor their children’s access to certain media, including books, according to our own values and ideas. In fact, in the U.S., every person has the freedom, given to us by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to express an opinion and to reject (and encourage others to reject) ideas or materials they find offensive.
A person or group who challenges a book is not just expressing an opinion of the material. The challenger is attempting to restrict access to the material for everyone.
A challenger is therefore a person or group who attempts to restrict others’ ability to choose. This restriction is censorship, in direct opposition of the First Amendment. If the challenger is successful and the material is removed from access, then the book is said to be banned.
The OIF and ALA only record those instances of challenged or banned books that are reported to them by newspapers or individuals using the Challenge Reporting Form, available at the ALA website. ALA surveys indicate that approximately 85 percent of challenges to library materials go unreported.
Of the hundreds of books reportedly challenged and banned each year, ALA statistics cite sexually explicit content, unsuitability to age group, and violence as the top three reasons for these challenges.
Books challenged in 2009 and 2010 include Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game, challenged by a student’s father for containing scenes of Egyptian worship rituals, and Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl, challenged for its “graphic content and unsatisfactory ending.”
Banned books include the Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, banned in some Australia primary schools for being too racy, and the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, pulled from Menifee, California Union School District and under consideration for a permanent classroom ban after a student came across the term “oral sex.”
American Library Association
“Banned and Challenged Books” http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/index.cfm
Doyle, Rober P. “Books Challenged or Banned in 2009-2010” http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/free_downloads/2010banned.pdf
“Number of Challenges by Year, Reason, Initator & Institution (1990 – 2009)” http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengesbytype/index.cfm