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Contacts: Larra Clark, Macey Morales
ALA Media Relations
312-280-5043/4393
For Immediate Release
August 18, 2006 

 

More than a book a day challenged in U.S. schools, libraries

Banned Books Week marks 25th anniversary September 23-30

(CHICAGO) More than a book a day faces expulsion from free and open public access in U.S. schools and libraries every year. There have been more than 8,700 attempts since the American Library Association (ALA) began electronically compiling and publishing information on book challenges in 1990.

Twenty-five years after the first observance of Banned Books Week, more than 1,000 people stayed past 1 a.m. debating a request to remove nine books - including "The Things They Carried" by Tim O’Brien and "Beloved" by Toni Morrison - from a Chicagoland school district. The books were ultimately retained.

"Forever" by Judy Blume was one of more than 70 titles a Fayetteville, Ark., mother requested be removed in 2005. Twenty-five years earlier, the book was restricted in the Park Hill (Mo.) South Junior High School library because the book promotes "the stranglehold of humanism on life in America."

"Throughout history, there always have been a few people who don’t want information to be freely available. And this is still true," said ALA President Leslie Burger. "The reason more books aren’t banned is because community residents - with librarians, teachers and journalists - stand up and speak out for their freedom to read. Banned Books Week reminds us that we must remain vigilant."

Bookstores and libraries around the country will celebrate the freedom to read with exhibits, readings and special events during Banned Books Week, September 23-30, 2006. First observed in 1982, Banned Books Week reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. City Lit Theater in Chicago and ALA will kick off the week with theatrical readings from recently challenged books September 24. The ALA also will participate in a virtual panel discussion with author Chris Crutcher ("Whale Talk") and 15 high schools on September 25. Participants will hear about Crutcher’s experiences as a frequently challenged author, learn more about the history of book banning in the United States and examine contemporary issues in intellectual freedom and access to information.

There were 405 known attempts to remove books in 2005. Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. About 70 percent of challenges take place in schools and school libraries. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.

"We are as busy as we’ve ever been in fighting censorship attempts in schools and libraries," Krug said. "Libraries are no longer simply about books - but also about DVDs, videogames and online information."

Robie Harris’ "It’s Perfectly Normal" was the most challenged book of last year. Rounding out the top five most challenged books in 2005 were:

  • "Forever" by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;

  • "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group;

  • "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language; and

  • "Whale Talk" by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

For more information on Banned Books Week, please visit www.ala.org/bbooks . To schedule interviews with national spokespeople, please call or email Larra Clark at 312-280-5043 (lclark@ala.org ) or Macey Morales at 312-280-4393 (mmorales@ala.org ). Artwork also is available.

 


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