Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Books Week 2013

It's Banned Books Week this week. According to the American Library Association these are the top ten books which were challenged in 2012.  The ALA defines a challenge as "... a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."
  1.  Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

I can tell you right now, Captain Underpants and Scary Stories are among the most popular titles to be checked out by the kids in my libraries.  I wish we had more copies of both.  Do I believe parents have a right to determine if materials are suitable for their own children?  Absolutely, I think parents should be doing so.  That does not extend to other people's children though. The job of a library and the job of a parent are two entirely different things.  The library's job is to make sure materials are available to those who seek access.  The parents' job is to set the standards for their own family. 

Does that mean I am going to order Fifty Shades of Grey for my elementary school libraries?  Of course not.  E. L. James did not write the book intending it for children.  And though part of my job is weeding the collection of old, worn, hopelessly dated, or now inaccurate non-fiction books and though that is partly subjective I cannot exclude a book simply because I find it personally objectionable.


joeh said...

I could not believe Captain Underpants when my son brought it home...Thought it was inappropriate and in bad taste, but at least he was reading something.

He is now 15 and appears unscathed from reading this crap. he does however wear underpants all the time.

Craig said...

Wait a minute. . . 'religious viewpoint' is right there alongside 'sexually explicit' as a reason to ban a book? Suddenly I feel exhilaratingly dangerous. . . ;)

Captain Underpants was 8M's favorite series, when he was in 1st/2nd grades. Now he's in 6th, and has read the entire Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. So, you know, it didn't work out so bad as all THAT. . .

Stephen Hayes said...

I've read a third of these books. The Kite Runner? That was a wonderful book.

Bijoux said...

I generally don't care for books that have a proliferation of offensive language. The Glass Castle?? WTH? One of my fave books, ever! I have no recollection of it having bad language or being sexually explicit. Weird.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I hate the idea of banning books, although of course you have to have some selectiveness about age-appropriateness. But 50 Shades of Grey? Seems like it would go without saying that you wouldn't put misogynistic pornography on the shelves of a school library.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

What is it about folks who think they should decided what's best for others?

Censorship, except in the case of national security (and who knows what that is/), is so not right (I hate saying anyone is wrong), unless it is self-censorship.

So I'm not going to tell anyone what I really think.

Hilary said...

When my son was in elementary school, he had a brief reading fling with Captain Underpants. I was thrilled that he was reading something.. anything. When a book is popular with kids, that's a blessing.. if you want them to read.

Leave It To Davis said...

Captain Underpants???? Seriously???? I bought that for my boys years ago from the book club at school!!! It's adorable and it got my boys who were not in the least interested in reading to read!!!