Sep. 24 to Oct. 1 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read and create awareness to protect access to books, says Barbara Jones, Director of American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, the group behind Banned Books Week. Local communities across the country celebrate Banned Books Week to emphasize the importance of our First Amendment rights and give kids the opportunity to read barred stories. Books are challenged most often by parents due to sexually explicit content or offensive language, but participants during this week, including the Association of American Publishers, the National Council of Teachers of English, and local libraries and schools, recognize these books and their importance on youth.
Popular young adult novels such as Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series and Susan Collins' Hunger Games are on ALA's list of most criticized books. Classic books that have been on and off the banned list include J.D. Salinger's e Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
"Young adult novels are a bit bleak and contain drugs, sexually explicit content and violence. However, these novels have the power to save the lives of at-risk young adults because they can identify with controversial topics, such as gun violence, anorexia and cutting," says Jones. In August, Republic (Mo.) School District banned two books: Slaughterhouse- Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer. Parents in the district complained about the way American history was presented and that it included controversial religious undertones. Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, courtesy of an anonymous donor, offered Slaughterhouse- Five to any of the 150 students who were supposed to read the book in class and could not.
ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom offers solutions to banning books. Jones suggests that school districts start a book review committee. is would allow concerned parents or to discuss the books and understand their themes in a larger context. "These groups work because parents have the opportunity to really think about a book and what their child can learn from it. I've never seen a book get banned at a school district that does this," says Jones.
"Overprotecting kids isn't doing them a favor. ere are a lot of issues in this world, and books confront kids with uncomfortable ideas and allow them the opportunity to talk about difficult issues with parents, teachers or librarians. If they don't read about it, they will see it," says Jones. To get involved with Banned Books Week, ALA recommends holding public read-outs , virtual read-outs, or host banned music concerts in your community. To learn more about Banned Books Week, visit ala.org/bbooks.