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.

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


Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

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.

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago

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

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez5 years ago

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!

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Very interesting, thanks

a             y m.
g d c5 years ago


Nikki Jones
Nikki Jones9 years ago

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.

Phoenix Flame
Phoenix Flame9 years ago

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".

Phoenix Flame
Phoenix Flame9 years ago

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