Banned Books Week Talking Points

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Key messages

  • Not every book will be right for every reader, but the freedom to choose for ourselves from a full variety of possibilities is a hard-won right for every American.
  • Do you remember the first book you read that made you care about a cause or think about changing the world?  Chances are someone has tried to have that book removed from a school or library somewhere nearby.
  • The ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely are core American values.  During Banned Books Week, we hope to remind Americans of the importance of this fundamental freedom at a time when freedoms are being eroded in the United States.
  • Most people who ask to have books removed are motivated by genuine concern. But removing or restricting books from library shelves is not the answer.
  • Books have been banned around the world throughout history. The reason there aren’t more books banned in the United States is because community residents – with librarians, teachers and journalists – stand up and speak out for their freedom to read.

About Banned Books Week

  • First observed in 1982, Banned Books Week celebrates our most basic freedom in a democratic society – our first amendment right of the freedom to read -- and reminds us that we should not take it for granted.
  • No matter how unorthodox or unpopular a book may be, Banned Books Week stresses the importance of ensuring the availability for all who wish to read and access them.

Virtual Read Out!

  • People all over the country and around the world were once again be able to participate in the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out, in which readers proclaim the virtues of their favorite banned books by uploading videos of themselves reading excerpts to a dedicated YouTube channel.*
  • New to the Virtual Read Out in 2012 was the “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week” featuring videos from each state demonstrating how they celebrate the freedom to read.*

Submission information and criteria can be found at:

Banned Websites Awareness Day

  • In an effort to raise awareness of the overly restrictive blocking of legitimate, educational websites and academically useful social networking tools in schools and school libraries, the AASL has designated one day during Banned Books Week as Banned Websites Awareness Day. 
  • On this day, AASL asks school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning.  

Book Challenges/Banning

  • The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) received 326 reports in 2011 regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. Since 1990, there have been more than 11,300 reported challenges.  
  • A "challenge" is a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness. Most book challenges reported to the ALA have taken place in schools and public libraries. 
  • Parents lodged the majority of challenges, followed by library patrons and administrators.  
  • We do not know how many challenges eventually end in a ban or restriction.  Reporting to ALA is voluntary, and we do not always learn the final outcome of a challenge.
  • Most challenges involve materials dealing with sexuality and what some consider offensive language.
  • The most challenged book of 2011 was “ttyl,” by Lauren Myracle. “ttyl” is a young-adult series that follows three teen girls as they enter their sophomore year of high school Their story is told through a series of text messages between the three friends. Attempts to remove the series from reading lists and bookshelves was due to reasons of offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; or unsuited to age group.

Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged books of 2011

The "Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011" reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1)      ttylttfnl8rg8r (series), by Lauren Myracle 
Offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

2)      The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

3)      The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

4)     My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

5)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6)      Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

7)      Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8)      What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9)      Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10)  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Offensive language; racism

All data provided by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. For more information, visit