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Banning Books Bites

Banning Books Bites

For the past two years, a children’s book about two male penguins caring for an orphaned egg has topped the list of the American Library Association’s 10 Most Challenged Books. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The award-winning tale about two daddy penguins Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell received these challenges because of its “homosexuality and anti-family” viewpoint. What?! Hold on, let me check my map, are we still in the United States of America?

For more than 15 years, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has received and tallied reports on book challenges. In 2007, the office received 420 reports on efforts to abolish materials from school curriculum and library bookshelves. However, the majority of challenge requests are not reported and the number of challenges is far greater.

Hot on the heels of reports about Sarah Palin’s propensity to challenge books in the Wasilla library comes Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, which is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. The event is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, 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.

According to the ALA, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met. Check out the list of frequently challenged books.

What you can do to fight censorship and keep books available in your libraries, suggested by the ALA:

Stay informed. If you read or hear about a challenge at your school or public library, support your librarian and free and open access to library materials. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates they learn of only 20-25 percent of book challenges. Let us know if there is a challenge in your community. Find out what the policy is for reviewing challenged materials at your school or public library. Join the Intellectual Freedom Action News (IFACTION) e-list.

Get involved. Go to school board meetings. Volunteer to help your local school or public library create an event that discusses the freedom to read and helps educate about censorship–maybe a film festival, a readout, a panel discussion, an author reading or a poster contest for children illustrating the concept of free speech.

Speak out. Write letters to the editor, your public library director and your local school principal supporting the freedom to read. Talk to your neighbors and friends about why everyone should be allowed to choose for themselves and their families what they read. Encourage your governor, city council and/or mayor to proclaim Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read in your state or community.

Exercise your rights! Check out or re-read a favorite banned book. Encourage your book group to read and discuss one of the books. Give one of your favorite books as a gift. The 100 most challenged books of the 1990s is a good resource!

Join the Freedom to Read Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to the legal and financial defense of intellectual freedom, especially in libraries. You can also support the cause by buying Banned Books Week posters, buttons and T-shirts online.

Read more: Family, Healthy Schools, News & Issues, ,

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Care2 Healthy and Green Living

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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7:53PM PDT on May 8, 2013

My Mother served on her local library board for 40 years, Ran it for 30 and NEVER allowed a challenge to go through.

They named the Children's Reading Room after her.

7:39AM PDT on May 8, 2013

Banning a book only makes people want to read it more. It's ridiculous to ban books.

9:29AM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

I agree--call a book banned, and more folks are going to want to read it. What is interesting is that one person writes a letter of complaint, and a book is banned. Wish that applied to politicians! Maybe we could start something here!

12:46AM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

Very interesting, thanks

8:28AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012


10:59AM PDT on Jun 19, 2009

mega kabin

1:57AM PDT on Oct 18, 2008

Banning books in the [ast has usually only made them more well known and therefore more influential - that is the way of a democratic society. Even when banning books they have to open about it and explain why, hence human nature to want to learn more about it. Non-democratic countries would just do it and not say which isn't fair we need the right to discuss and make inform choices in our local networks as it is in our nature to want to know.

4:03PM PDT on Oct 12, 2008

Sorry, I'm not sure why the comment posted twice. The last line should have read " I make a point to purchase banned and challenged books".

4:02PM PDT on Oct 12, 2008

I really don't understand why you mentioned Sarah Palin in this article, she has nothing to do with the subject. There was a story done on her, aside from the rumor that she tried to ban certain books, that says the alligations are not true. Rather than taking the story as truth, I would like to see someone really check into it and see what is and is not true in this regard. Other than that, the aticle is "pretty good". point to purchase challenged and banned books

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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