Banned Book Week kicks off Saturday
The American Library Association sponsors a week of celebration each year to maintain awareness of threatened books. This year Sept. 29 - Oct. 6 is designated as Banned Books Week to draw attention to the ever-present threat of censorship.
School and public library books are among the most visible targets and are frequently challenged for various reasons. According to the American Library Association, http://www.ala.org , a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. The restricting of access is where challenges become dangerous.
Some works that have been banned or challenged are:
"Little Red Riding Hood" by Grimm - This illustrated book was banned in two California school districts in 1989 because it shows the heroine taking food and wine to her grandmother. The school districts cited concerns about the use of alcohol in the story as cause for the ban.
In 1999, "Hamlet," "Macbeth" and "King Lear" were pulled from class reading lists, citing "adult language" and references to sex and violence in Windor Forest High School, Ga. Parents had to sign a permission slip before their senior could read any of them.
"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller was challenged in Cumberland Valley High School, Harrisburg, Pa. in 1982. It was considered dangerous because it contains "sick words from the mouths of demon-possessed people."
R.L Stine's book "Double Date" was removed from the Crawford County, Ga. Middle School library in 2003 because the book deals with complex issues teenagers confront.
Censorship is not a problem that occurs elsewhere. Here in Montana it is all too common.
"Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger is often banned or removed from high schools. In 1983 it was challenged in Libby for provocative actions and language.
"America" by E.R. Frank was challenged in Twin Bridges in 2004. The school board voted to keep the novel about an abused child in the high school library. A teacher had challenged the book, saying that it was too graphic, but the committee that recommended the board keep it said, "Abuse cannot be painted with a pretty picture."
In 1985, "Superfudge" by Judy Blume was challenged in Bozeman based on the "profane, immoral and offensive" content.
"Horse" was challenged in 2004 in Helena Public Schools because it presented evolution. The school board voted to retain the book.
In 2005 a Bozeman parent challenged "On the Bright Side, Now I Am the Girlfriend of a Sex God" because of the title not the content. The book was retained by the school district.
"The Hammer of Eden" by Follett was challenged in the Great Falls School District in 2000 but retained.
People and communities must remain dedicated to the principles of the First Amendment. It provides the nation's blueprint for both personal freedom and an open society, containing broad recognition of the fundamental liberties Americans hold dear. But despite this, attempts to censor words, thoughts and opinions remain constant. The recognition and celebration of these rights is essential to maintaining them.
If anything is more important than celebrating First Amendment rights, it is actually exercising them. Banned or challenged books often have important lessons to teach youth, and can offer an excellent opportunity for parents and teachers. Dialogue should be opened instead of shut down when there are objective, shocking or derisive opinions expressed. Beatrice Hale summed it up best when she said "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it."
Join the Lincoln County Public Libraries in celebrating free speech and the freedom to read. Read a banned book.
- By Sami Pierson, director of the Lincoln County Libraries