Now before you accuse me of going all “librarian” on you, keep in mind that your freedom to read is a feminist human rights issue; challenged books limit intellectual freedom for all and impinge upon our first amendment rights.
A few stats taken from the ALA website:
Over the past eight years, American libraries were faced with 3,736 challenges.
- 1,225 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
- 1,008 challenges due to “offensive language”;
- 720 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;
- 458 challenges due to “violence”
- 269 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and
Further, 103 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 233 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”
One of the books most often challenged in the past year is And Tango Makes Three, a picture book about the two male penguins at the Central Park zoo who were given an egg to hatch after they were seen caring for an egg-sized rock.
In public libraries and schools across the country, parents argued for it to be taken out of the collection, citing that it was anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexual, challenged religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group. Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said “it’s very misleading and it’s a very disingenuous, inaccurate way to promote a political agenda to little kids.” Gay penguin parents = totally political.
Others to make the top ten list of most challenged books in 2008:
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, charged for homosexuality and unsuited to age group.
Bless Me, Ultima challenged for occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence.
And one of my favorites when I was younger, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, challenged for drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group.
Think it doesn’t happen in your neck of the woods? Check out this Google Map that pins all of the cities where books have been challenged from 2007-2009.
Classics such as The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, Beloved, 1984, The Sound and the Fury, Animal Farm and Charlotte’s Web were all banned or challenged books at one point in time.
So why should you care?
Because books that are challenged in an attempt to remove or restrict materials is not just a person expressing their views, but an attempt to remove materials from a library and restrict everyone’s access. This is a form of censorship. It is a first amendment right that the government may not restrict the expression of an idea simply because one finds it offensive. Thanks to librarians, teachers, publishers, and advocates throughout multiple communities, these books are able to remain on the shelves for any who want to read them.