The last week in September marks a very important occasion for book lovers and library advocates alike. From September 24th to October 1st, we can participate in an annual celebration that stresses the importance of one of our favorite things – our freedom to read. Banned Books Week was started in 1982 in an attempt to draw attention to the large increase in banned and challenged books occurring in libraries, schools, and bookstores across the United States. During the twenty-nine years since its induction, over 11,000 more books have been challenged or banned.
What do The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl have in common? Each of these titles has been challenged by various groups and, in some cases, has been banned from schools and libraries.
Nearly 23 years ago, I sat in Mrs. Brinkman’s fourth grade classroom listening attentively to my first truly gripping mystery, The View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts. The tale was suspenseful, and I couldn’t wait to hear the end. The story follows how Rob, our young hero-protagonist, witnesses a murder from his perch in the neighbor’s cherry tree. No one believes him, not friends and not his family. He has to solve the crime alone, and for a young boy, it’s a tall order.
As I was reshelving some books the other day, I came upon a book called 120 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature. Knowing that Banned Books Week was coming up, I just had to peek inside and see what books have been challenged. As I began perusing the book, I was quite surprised by some of the books that have been challenged, censored, and banned over the years.
Sadly, no, banning books is not something relegated to the 1500s or the Nazis. Every year, we celebrate Banned Books Weeks (Sept. 22-28th) to bring awareness about the fact that books are still being challenged all the time, all over the world. The Office of Intellectual Freedom, run by the American Library Association, keeps track of all the challenges throughout the year and puts out a list of the most challenged titles for each year.
To be honest, I had never given much thought to banned books. It’s actually kind of embarrassing to admit, seeing as I was an English Literature major in college, am currently a library science student, and a librarian! We even participate in Banned Books Week (September 21-27, 2014) every year, but I had never really given much thought to why certain books are challenged.