Banned Books Week

Read a Banned Book

Throughout the country, most children are starting a new academic year. Teachers are sending out their lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. Unfortunately, in some cases, classics like "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Catcher in the Rye," and "To Kill a Mockingbird" may not be included in the curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.

Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 323 in 2016. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or the school curriculum. About half of all challenges are material in schools or school libraries, and one in four are material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.

It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful, and reading materials like "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Slaughterhouse-Five," the Harry Potter series, and The Hunger Games series, remain available. 

The most challenged and/or restricted reading materials have been books for children.  However, challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; on the contrary, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the parents who know them best!

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the ALA and Great River Regional Library (GRRL) are celebrating Banned Books Week (September 18-24), an annual recognition of our right to access books without censorship. 

American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read at your library! Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week.

Here are the top 10 challenged books of 2021 that you can check out and start reading now with GRRL. Click the title to go to the book in the GRRL catalog:

1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.

2. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

3. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

4. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity.

5.  The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.

6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.

7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.

8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicted child sexual abuse.

9. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.

10. Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.