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Contact: Larra Clark
Media Relations Manager 
312-280-5043
lclark@ala.org

 

For Immediate Release
July 15, 2004 

American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week
with "Elect to Read a Banned Book" theme in 2004

CHICAGO-Most Americans know about the presidential contest in November, but the American Library Association (ALA) is urging Americans to "Elect to Read a Banned Book," in honor of this year's Banned Books Week, September 25 to October 2. 

Observed since 1982, the annual event reminds Americans not to take for granted their precious freedom to read.

Bookstores and libraries nationwide will help "get out the vote" with displays and readings from books - ranging from the Bible and "Little Red Riding Hood" to John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" - that have been banned or threatened throughout history. 

In Chicago, for example, the ALA and other local groups will co-sponsor a public awareness program on free speech. "Outspoken: Chicago's Free Speech Tradition," will kick-off with a readout on Saturday, October 2, which will feature local celebrities reading from favorite banned books and an open mike for audience participation. ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano will keynote the event. In the Lone Star State, the ACLU of Texas will be sponsoring or participating in several readings of banned and challenged books during Banned Books Week.

Each year, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (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.

In 2003, the OIF received reports of 458 challenges, defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series topped the list in 2003, ending the four-year reign of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. The Alice series, which drew complaints about the books' sexual content, ranks No. 10 on the most challenged books list of the 1990s.

Rounding out the top five most challenged books in 2003 were:

  • Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, for offensive language.
     
  • "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles, for inaccuracy.
  • "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, sexual content, offensive language, drugs and violence.

Most challenges in the past few years have been reported by school libraries (41 percent), schools (33 percent), and public libraries (18 percent), according to OIF Director Judith F. Krug. Most challenges (63 percent) were lodged by a parent.

Off the list in 2003 after several years were "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou (for sexual content, racism, offensive language, violence and being unsuited to age group) and Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (for racism, insensitivity, 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 or to learn about materials available to help celebrate Banned Books Week, contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom at 800-545-2433, ext. 4223, or oif@ala.org, or visit www.ala.org/bbooks.

  


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