Book banning alive and well in the U.S.

Contact: Macey Morales
Manager, ALA-PIO Media Relations
312-280-4393
mmorales@ala.org

NEWS
For Immediate Release
September 9, 2008

ALA calls on Americans to fight censorship, celebrate the freedom to read

CHICAGO – Are books like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” or the Harry Potter series available at your public or school library? According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), due to book challenges, more than a book a day faces removal from public access in school and public libraries. Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.

In many cases, it is only through public intervention that books are saved from confiscation or from being kept under lock and key. This Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, 2008, Americans will celebrate their freedom to read by reading a banned book during Banned Books Week. This year will mark the 27th annual celebration of the freedom to read, as thousands of libraries and bookstores nationwide host exhibits, readings and special events.

For example in Chicago, on Sept. 27, several best-selling authors will perform readings from banned or challenged books. Participating authors include Judy Blume, “Forever”; Stephen Chbosky,  "The Perks of being a Wallflower"; Ron Koertge, "The Brimstone Journals"; Newbery Medal winner and author of “The Giver,” Lois Lowry; Lauren Myracle, "TTYL"; Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Alice series; and Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, authors of “And Tango Makes Three,” the most challenged book of 2007.  

Each year, the OIF receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were "challenged" by people who asked that they be removed from school or library shelves. There were 420 known attempts to remove books in 2007, and more than 9, 600 attempts since the ALA’s OIF began to electronically compile and publish information on book challenges in 1990. Unfortunately, it is believed that for every challenge or banning reported to OIF, there are four to five incidents not reported.

“Banned Books Week is an opportunity for the ALA to educate librarians and the general public about the importance of intellectual freedom,” said (ALA) President Jim Rettig. “Individuals must have the freedom to choose what materials are suitable for themselves and their families.”

Most book challenges reported to OIF have been reported from schools (71 percent) and public libraries (24 percent). Parents lodged 61 percent of the book challenges, followed by library patrons at 15 percent and administrators at 9 percent.

“We must remain vigilant to assure that would-be censors do not threaten the very basis of our democracy – the freedom to choose,” said Judith F. Krug, director, OIF. “Since our society is so diverse, libraries and bookstores have a responsibility to provide materials that reflect the interests of all of their patrons.”
The "10 Most Challenged Books of 2007" reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

  • “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell 
    Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
  • “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
    Reasons:  Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence
  • “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
    Reasons:  Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language
  • “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
    Reasons:  Religious Viewpoint
  • “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
    Reasons:  Racism
  • “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
    Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,
  • “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons:  Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
  • “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
    Reasons:  Sexually Explicit
  • “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
    Reasons:  Sex Education, Sexually Explicit
  • “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons:  Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year are two books by author Toni Morrison "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved," both challenged for sexual content 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 and is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

For more information on book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Web site at www.ala.org/bbooks.