Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Books.

What do Twilight, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, and The Grapes of Wrath have in common? All three books were banned and/or challenged from school or public libraries. Just for the record, all three have been challenged within the past 10 years.  For example, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary was removed from the Menifee, Calif. School District in 2010 after a child found the term "oral sex". The district is considering a permanent classroom ban of the dictionary.

This week is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week. About Banned Books Week, the ALA says:
"Sex, profanity, and racism remain the primary categories of objections, and most occur in schools and school libraries. Frequently, challenges are motivated by the desire to protect children. While the intent is commendable, this method of protection contains hazards far greater than exposure to the “evil” against which it is leveled. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, in Texas v. Johnson, said, 'If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.' Individuals may restrict what they themselves or their children read, but they must not call on governmental or public agencies to prevent others from reading or seeing that material."

Requests to ban books from school and public libraries still abound. From 2009-2011, here are some of the books that were attempted to be removed from the shelves:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Challenged in Republic, Mo. schools in 2010 because it "glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex." Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut was also challenged in the same district for the same reasons last year.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Challenged in Glen Burnie, Md. in 2010 at the high school level because of concerns about sexually explicit content. It was also challenged (but retained) in 2011 at a Seattle Wash. high school because a parent complained that it lacked "literary value which is relevant in today's multicultural society."

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon: Removed from the Lake Fenton, Mich. summer reading program in 2010 after parents complained that it contained foul language.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: Challenged at the William S. Hart Union School District in Saugus, Calif. in 2009 from the required summer reading for the honors program. The challenge specified concerns about profanity, criticisms of Christianity, and recounts of sexual abuse as some of the reasons.

As you probably know by now, I'm a huge bookworm, and I totally agree with the statement made by the ALA about banned books--that we may restrict what we read or what our children read, but we may not attempt to leverage our concerns to prevent others from reading that book that we're concerned about. When we ask the government to censor and edit what we and our children are allowed to read, it's a slippery slope, a la Fahrenheit 451 (which coincidentally is often on the Banned Books List). Further, I'd suggest that as parents, there are often better ways to approach our concerns about the content of a particular book than by just saying, 'You can't read that.' Heck, my parents never restricted what I read growing up, but I can tell you that I read most of the books on the "Most Frequently Challenged" list as a teenager simply because they were challenged and/or banned at the request of other people's parents.

Anyway, this week, I'm celebrating some of the amazing literature that has been challenged and/or banned from public and school libraries over the years. I'm thankful to have the ability and the freedom to choose which books I wish to read and which I don't.

Here's a list of the Top 100 Banned and Challenged books from 2000-2009. Do any of your favorites make the list? Do any of these surprise you?

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank


  1. I am a huge bookworm, too... and that list actually brings tears to my eyes. I also have an English degree with a specialization in adolescent literature. Dozens of books on that list not only are my favorites, but also are books that have shaped the way I think and the way I treat people. To Kill a Mockingbird, Summer of My German Solider, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings... these are books I read when I was as young as 12 and have continuously reread. Speak surprised me... I read that in college and thought it pretty profound and something that every high school student... along with Curious Incident.

    I can tell you right now that my children will most certainly read books that other children aren't allowed to read. It is better to be honest with our children than to protect them too much!

  2. I agree with Casey. Kids are going to find out what "oral sex" is one way or another, and demanding the government ban literature that stirs the waters will not solve anything. It just breeds ignorance. Stuff like this really grinds my gears.

  3. Really? The Face on the Milk Carton? It's been a while since I read it, but I can't remember anything controversial..

  4. I wasn't allowed to read certain books growing up... Harry Potter, any of the Goosebumps books... I'm sure there's more but I can't think of them.

    I guess I haven't thought about this with my own kids, how we'll handle it. I can see it going both ways -- if you don't restrict what they read, will you restrict what they watch? (which was definitely censored in our house growing up, we weren't allowed to watch PG13 until we were 13, etc). I plan on definitely doing the same with my kids (with movies) but haven't thought about books.

    Thanks for posting this, it's definitely food for thought.

  5. As an English teacher, we struggled with parental complaints about books all the time. It was horrible because parents weren't talking to their kids about the issues raised in the books. They were trying to ignore them. Those children were often the ones who made bad choices.

    I read a ton of "banned" books as a kid. But I never acted on what I read. There isn't necessarily a correlation, you know?

  6. I am shocked by quite a few of these. As a fourth grade teacher I read/have read many of these books in reading groups with my kids. When we come to a part they have questions about we sit down and have a discussion about what they read and why it was important for the author to include it in the story.

  7. I am a librarian-in-training and I recently took a children's services class. We had to do a project on a banned book and I was shocked by the titles on the list. It's a really interesting topic and one that certainly has no right or wrong answer, in my book.

  8. I love reading. I'm always reading something. I've read a lot of those books. In fact, several of them were required reading during my schooling years.

    It makes me sad that "Goosebumps" is on the list. Those books were part of what really got me into reading. I had dozens of them.

    And "The Things They Carried" will always, always be in my top 10 favorite books. But I understand why it would be banned from schools. I read it in high school in my spare time and then was required to read it for a college course.

  9. Sometimes I feel like parents want to raise naive, overly-protected kids that aren't going to be prepared for the real world. And, as the previous commenter said, that some parents are too lazy or too worried about being made to feel uncomfortable themselves to just sit down and talk to their kids about the issues in the books themselves. I had to read a lot of these books in school and learned so much from the discussions I had about the controversial issues in them. Lordy, what a world. Great post!

  10. Loved loved this post today...I was not aware of this. 'Are you there God,its me Margaret' was one of my faves growing up. I am a huge book reader to and this is def food for thought!

  11. I've read many of the books on this list and some of them I don't understand why they're listed! Like the Junie B. Jones series!! Such cute books and great for the 6-9 year old brackett. Yes, Junie is bad sometimes but she's a little kid! I'm throughly outraged that kids aren't getting the literary education that they should be. Heaven forbid we actually teach children to think for themselves!

  12. Goosebumps!? That's crazy. I LOVED that series when I was a kid. I think I may have just about every book.


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