From the 22nd -28th September 2013, it was Banned Books Week, a celebration of the freedom to read. Although it’s mainly an American thing, and the list I will be looking at is from the American Library Association, I still think it’s a shock that challenges are made about whether certain books should be allowed to be read. Basically, the term that a book has been challenged is acknowledging that someone has complained about the book to the Office of Intellectual Freedom that it shouldn’t be allowed to be read, in some cases these challenges are acted upon in local communities – a book may be banned from a school or similar institution to protect people. Why not read some of this years challenged list for yourself and see if you think it’s earned it’s place there? Read on for more information later.
I’ll start with 2012, in which there were 464 challenges made to the Office of Intellectual Freedom and the top of the most challenged titles list?
Captain Underpants – Dan Pilkey.
Now, you might have something really against the books, but they’re humorous, and have been around as long as I’ve been alive (first one was published in 1997)! Yet, in 2012, it’s the most challenged book deemed to be inappropriate, and the reason given? Offensive language. It really has to make you wonder what is going in with the world.
But moving on from the ridiculousness of this, another one that caught my eye was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, this particularly surprised me as it is one of my favourite books, and although many people I talk to about books hasn’t read it, it was still challenged enough to make number three in the list last year. This time with the reasoning “drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group”. I totally understand these, as yes, there are all of these themes present in the book, but it’s how they’re put together that makes it such a wonderful book, it’s raw and real, and yes, upsetting, but it’s how the world is. In response to the fact it is considered unsuited for age group, any person is free to read whatever book they like, irrespective of the age group it’s aimed at, so it is up to the reader – of if they are of a really young age their parent or guardian – to decide whether they think the book they’re going to read is appropriate. Perhaps what is needed is age limits on books, like on video games and films – age restrictions that are legally binding.
A book that is seen in the list this year is Looking For Alaska by John Green, which has been banned as required reading in Sumner County, Tennessee schools due to inappropriate language. I’m sure anyone who has read this book and enjoys the genre would agree it is a fantastic book, this is not just my opinion however, the book won the 2006 Printz award for excellence in young adult literature!
What would you rather have, a world with freedom to read, or a world where it’s specifically chosen?
For more information on Banned Books Week and to see other banned or challenged books for 2012-2013 visit http://www.ila.org/BannedBooks/BBW_2012-2013_Shortlist.pdf or http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek.
I’ll leave you with this;