Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Celebrating Banned Books Week, Sept. 25-Oct. 2nd, 2010

They banned that?! WHY? This is the comment that I received from students, colleagues, and friends when I taught a lesson on censorship as part of this year's Banned Books Week. It may be hard to believe, but even in this enlightened America, the Land of Free Speech, there are still many challenges to great literary works. When I say banned, I'm not talking about the marching band at football games. No, I'm talking about removing literature, film, art, and other media from publicly accessible libraries, museums, schools, and websites simply because some find their content offensive. 

We all need to remember that banning books has disastrous consequences. It denies an author a voice and risks cutting off the cry for help from oppression. It allows others to make choices, instead of allowing one to make decisions for oneself. It necessarily stifles the creative juices of genius, limiting our citizens to a mediocre, generally accepted existence. I don't mean to say that all censoring is bad. No, some is clearly needed to protect young children from sexually explicit material, and there are other instances where it's appropriate as well. Rather, I'm suggesting that we think twice before removing literature from our schools and libraries. What is offensive to one person may be totally acceptable to another. My students were amazed that Captain Underpants was a challenged book. They appreciated the goofy antics and the language of their peers (elementary school bathroom talk). My friends were amazed that the Harry Potter series was at the top of the list for challenged books when it has received such widespread acceptance and huge movie deals. I, too, was astonished that one of my favorite young adult novels by Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was banned from a Stockton, Missouri high school library this month even though it was adopted as a required summer read by a New Jersey high school. Nonetheless, if you take a look at the American Library Association's list of challenged and banned books, you'd be hard pressed not to find some novel that you have read.

So, take some time to celebrate our literary freedom. Read a great work, perhaps one that's been banned. Let others know that we don't take our freedom of speech for granted!

Here's a link to the ALA's list of the top 100 banned/challenged books for the last decade:

Here's a link to some lesson plans for Banned Books Week by

Here's a link to Sherman Alexie's book on


  1. Thanks for helping to highlight this issue. People need to realise that the fight for free speech is an ongoing one and it's important for us to continue to defend our freedoms in the present day.

    Don't forget to check out Project Gutenberg's banned books section.

  2. Thanks for the heads up about Gutenberg's Banned Books section! I didn't realize they had a special bookshelf just for banned books. You'll see that I added a link to Project Gutenberg. Read on!