Banned Books Week, September 27th-October 3rd
by Kelt Wilska
Despite the ever-changing expectations and guidelines around COVID-19 and the reopening of our schools, here’s one thing that won’t change: any day now, students will be assigned their first big book of the year. It’s appropriate, then, that during the last week of September we highlight Banned Books Week, a way to cherish good books and promote awareness about the efforts to remove them from bookshelves.
Censorship has existed as long as the printed page, with countless motives but always with the intent of restricting access to information (see Common Sense by Thomas Paine). Banned Books Week was founded in 1982 by First Amendment activist Judith Krug as a response to a particularly dramatic spike in challenges to schools, libraries, and other literary institutions for carrying books deemed inappropriate for or even “dangerous” for young minds. us in the spirit of literary freedom, let’s consider some books that have been challenged, and yes, even banned, over the years.
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952). You’re probably thinking, “How in the world could someone challenge such a sweet book?” A group of parents in Kansas objected to the theme of death (sorry, spoiler alert!) and especially the idea of talking animals, because they found it blasphemous.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). One of the most cherished and commonly-taught books in the country has been challenged and banned for scenes of violence and its use of the N-word.
- A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein (1981). A classic collection of the renowned author’s poems, this children’s book was banned in some Florida schools due to concerns that it promotes violence and disrespect.
-Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (1997–2015). Any millennial will fondly recall these stories of mayhem and toilet humor from their childhood reading. It was challenged for promoting disruptive behavior and same-sex couple characters.
-The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003). Published two years after 9/11, this acclaimed book was challenged and banned for sexual violence and because it was thought to “promote terrorism” and “lead to Islam.”
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017). A #1 New York Times bestseller that brilliantly encapsulates the current struggle for racial justice in our country, this young adult book was vigorously challenged and banned for allegedly being “anti-cop” and for its profanity, drug use, and sexual references.
Concerned about books being challenged or banned in your area? For further resources and additional banned titles, visit bannedbooksweek.org.