Throughout the country, most children are starting a new academic year. Teachers are sending out their lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. In some cases, classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” may not be included in curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.
Since 1990, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 513 in 2008. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. About three out of four of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and one in four are to material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.
It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” ” The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” the Harry Potter” series, and “The Hunger Games” series, also a couple by, Jodi Picoult remain available.
The most challenged and/or restricted reading materials have been books for children. However, challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; on the contrary, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best—their parents!
In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the ALA and Eddy-New Rockford Library are sponsoring Banned Books Week Sept.24-Oct.1 an annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. This year’s observance commemorates the most basic freedom in a democratic society—the freedom to read freely—and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted.