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.
  • 2014 marks the 32th anniversary of Banned Books Week. This year's celebration, Sept. 21 – 27, will highlight the value of graphic novels to readers from all walks of life.

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 464 reports in 2012 regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. Since 1990, there have been more than 11,700 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 2012 was Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series, reasond for the challenges were "offensive language" and "unsuited to age group." Captain Underpants also appeared on the Top Ten lists in 2002, 2004, and 2005. New to the Top Ten list  in 2012 were Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher at #3, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James at #4, and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls at #9. Back on the list after one year off is Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson's And Tango Makes Three.

Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged books of 2012

The "Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2012" reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom released the top ten most frequently challenged books list of 2012 as part of the State of America's Library Report on Monday, April 15. Out of 464 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom the most frequently challenged were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin SchwartzReasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette WallsReasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni MorrisonReasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

138 more challenges were reported for 2012 than 2011, at least in part due to success of OIF's Challenge Reporting Campaign. If you know of a book that has been banned or challenged in a library or school, please help us by reporting it.

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