How many banned books have you read?
The American Library Association (ALA) has an Office for Intellectual Freedom. Every year the office records hundreds of attempts by individuals and groups to have certain books removed from library shelves and classrooms. They publish an annual list of Banned Books and some of those listed may surprise you. Oftentimes it only takes one parent to file a complaint and, while under investigation, the local library or school takes the book out of circulation.
ALA sponsors Banned Books Week every September. This year, 2012, marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week with a theme of “Thirty Years of Liberating Literature.” Events take place from September 30 through October 6, 2012. Take a look at www.bannedbooksweek.org for information about how to participate in the Virtual Read Out. Check out this video by Mary Beth Tinker, the plaintiff in the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District case that is the foundation of a student’s freedom of expression rights, in support of your freedom to read.
In the interest of intellectual freedom, most books that have been challenged were not banned. The power of literature is too strong to be suppressed due to a word, phrase or concept. Obviously, books made available to children, tweens and teens should be age appropriate but, at the same time, should be within the control of their parents and guardians. They are the first-responders to a child’s development and integrity.
Speaking of the power of the written word, take a look at our review of “Bookmarked” (Free Spirit Publishing, 2012). Teacher Ann Camacho edited fifty essays written by her students about the books that inspired them in their lives. The collection is broad and the personal statements by the students powerful.
Here are a few of the books that have been on ALA’s list of banned books over the years. Have you read any of these? Are you surprised that they’ve been challenged as inappropriate for teenagers?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Ulysses by James Joyce
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
1984, by George Orwell