Book censorship is a time-honored tradition. Banning books is alive and well in America today. Today, we consider why books are challenged—the reasons cited by those who attempt to ban books in our schools and libraries.
What do you think is the main reason?
This week, as most of America’s schoolchildren are going back to school, we’ve examined new attempts to ban ‘demonic’ books, the No. 1 banned book in the last 10 years, self-censorship by authors in our climate of surveillance, and the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week this month and 451 Degrees, a high-school book club devoted to reading banned books. (By the way, I asked my son about Captain Underpants, the No. 1 banned book in the last decade. Had he read it in elementary school? “Yes,” he said. “It was kinda funny, but pretty stupid.”)
We conclude this week by considering the reasons why books are challenged.
There have been 5,099 challenges to books from 2000–2009, according to the ALA. Here are the main reasons why books are challenged. (Note that some books are challenged for multiple reasons, so the figures below don’t total 5,099.)
- “Sexually explicit” material (1,577 challenges)
- “Offensive language” (1,291 challenges)
- “Unsuited to age group” (989 challenges)
- “Violence” (619 challenges)
- “Homosexuality” (361 challenges)
More challenges are made to books in school libraries than any other place, followed by challenges to books used in classrooms and then books available in public libraries. There are relatively few challenges to books used in college or in academic libraries, according to the ALA.
Are you surprised to learn that “sexually explicit” material is the most commonly made charge?
Of these five reasons, which one is the most important to you?
Which of the five is the least important to you?