Welcome to Banned Books Week! Every year the last week of September is dedicated to raising awareness about Banned Books in the US, and this year it runs from September 21 to September 27.
I’ll be honest, the first time I heard about Banned Books Week, I was taken back a little.
Banned books? In the US? Isn’t there freedom of expression and all that good stuff?
And yet. Between 2000 and 2009, 5,099 challenges were reported to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. 5,099 attempts at banning books all over the US – and that’s only the ones reported.
The reasons vary wildly from sexually explicit content (1,577), offensive language (1,291), homosexuality (361), occult/Satanic themes (274), to books being anti-family (119). The places these books are being banned are also varied – school libraries, classrooms (both at the K-12 and college levels), academic and public libraries.
It’s kind of mind blowing to think that people actively try to ban books every day, all over the US. As someone currently working on her Master of Library and Information Sciences, this topic has obviously come up during class. The biggest thing that surprised me – or maybe it shouldn’t have – when we talked about challenges and bans in my Collection Development class, was the number of people that challenge books without ever having read them. Yup, people that have never read a book, try to ban that very book – try to get them out of library shelves and out of class curriculums because of something that someone told them about the book. Crazy, right? Shouldn’t you at least get to know the book you’re trying to ban?
And some of the books people try to ban, are really good books! Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s one of the most challenged books was The Harry Potter book. Why? Occult and Satanic themes. Because you know, the boy wizard is totally out to get us to worship the devil . In 2013, the fifth most challenged book was The Hunger Games series and in 2013 the 6th most challenge book was The Kite Runner. And one of my “favorites”. In 2010, a parent tried to have Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl banned due its “pornographic content“. Can’t even make this stuff up, folks.
Banned Books Week is something I’ve become pretty passionate about, as the program chair of my department said, “We’re all better off when people can read and think freely.” So don’t be surprised if I share more about it this, either here or on social media. Because, unlike those random “national whatever random thing day”, I feel Banned Books Week is actually important – it deals with our intellectual freedom, after all.
And let’s end in a fun note, shall we? Go here and see how scandalous your reading history is!