From The Great Gatsby to the Harry Potter series, you may be surprised to see many of your favorite novels on our Banned Books tables this month. Since September 25 through October 1 is Banned Books Week, we’re allaying the slippery slope of censorship by exercising our right to read books that have been challenged throughout history.
Although some of the titles are more obviously risqué, such as Fear of Flying and Fifty Shades of Grey, many of these books (especially ones you’ll find in the kids’ section, like James and the Giant Peach and the Captain Underpants series) are beloved classics for children. So why are they frequently challenged?
The reason for challenges ranges from cultural insensitivity to technical errors, but the most common reasons are, by a landslide, sexually explicit content, offensive language, and unsuitability for the proposed age group. Ban initiators can be educators, religious organizations, government bodies, or other groups, but they are most frequently concerned parents.
We know this because the Office of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association maintains data about formal complaints against certain books. Although they hope to receive a notification every time someone makes a formal request that a title be removed from a library or bookstore, complaints are often recorded without context, or not at all.
Of course, some people may find certain material objectionable. However, the mission of Banned Books Week is to promote self-selection over censorship, the right to select one's own reading material and that of their childfren on an indivdual basis, even if it's unorthodox or unpopular.
You can help by documenting challenges to ban books in schools or public libraries as well as exercising your right to read. We believe the fight for intellectual freedom is crucial, and we hope you join us in picking up a banned book or two this fall.