Banned Books Week 2017
Readers all over the world will observe Banned Books Week on September 24-30, 2017. The annual event is intended as a celebration of the freedom to read and of freedom of access to information. Banned Books observations bring together readers in general with booksellers, journalists, librarians, publishers, and teachers at all levels.
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Each year the American Library Association (ALA)’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) releases its banned books list, which also includes books which have not been explicitly banned but have been challenged (i.e. suggested as books to ban or restrict to certain audiences). This includes children’s books that are challenged on the grounds that they are not developmentally appropriate for the age group they’re meant for.
Why are books banned? They may be banned for a wide variety of reasons, usually on the grounds that they present a challenge to a religious, moral, or political worldview. Books may be challenged because of images used in them, information presented in them, or their subject matter. Children’s books, middle-grade books, and young adult books are frequently challenged by parents on the grounds that they expose children to sexually explicit material or that they contain “offensive” language. These are the top two reasons cited for challenging books.
In the United States, the banning or challenging of books often takes the form of removing these books from the classroom and/or the public or school library. In the United States, the public banning of books has occurred at least since the early 20th century, when the state of Tennessee banned books that mentioned the theory of evolution, including Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, from public school classrooms. The city of Boston, Massachusetts was somewhat notorious for banning books from the city limits in the 1920s, which is why older comedians still occasionally make jokes about being “banned in Boston.”
The 1924 Supreme Court case of Evans v. Selma Union High School District of Fresno County decided that the purchasing of a particular book for a school’s library does not equate to the school’s endorsement of any ideas contained in the book. This established the precept of freedom to read that has often been upheld across the U.S. (some other interesting cases regarding the banning of books)
Although a 1982 Supreme Court ruling established that local school boards do, and should, have discretion over the materials purchased for their school districts, Justice William Brennan noted in his written opinion that school boards do not have the right to purchase school materials in an overly partisan, political, or biased manner. Thus far, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the right of libraries and schools to possess and disseminate books that are challenged on the grounds of being anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, etc. on the principle that ideas with which one disagrees can be used as teaching tools to stimulate discussion.
Many well-known American books have been censored in the U.S. These banned books include And Tango Makes Three (a children’s book often cited for its depiction of same-sex co-parenting), To Kill a Mockingbird (often cited for its mentions of sexual assault and use of an offensive racial term), The Catcher in the Rye (often challenged for its profanity, sexual situations, and anti-authority main character), and the Harry Potter series (often challenged for its depictions of witchcraft and the occult on the grounds that they are anti-religious). Here’s a larger list of well known classic books that have been banned or challenged: ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics
How to participate:
Image Source: http://library.dsu.edu/banned-books-week
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