We Read Banned Books. Do you?


This week is Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of our freedom to read. If you are new to BBW, read my post from earlier this week for more information.

As a librarian, intellectual freedom is important to me and is something I take very seriously. Censorship may seem like an antiquated idea but books are still being banned in the US all too often. Just this month Ellen Hopkins, author of the books Crank and Glass, had a speaking engagement at an Okalahoma middle school canceled and her books pulled from the library after a parent complained. According to her blog, her books are based on her daughter’s addiction to drugs and are meant to be a cautionary tale. Librarian Sadie Mattox has written a wonderful response to this incident on her blog. Here’s an excerpt:

“The point is, by all means, guide your child’s reading. However, your reading habits do not extend to the children of other people. Other people’s children are their own readers with their own minds and those minds do not belong to you. Reading is a deeply personal experience. That’s what makes it so wonderful and frightening. Leave it that way.”

I really recommend reading the rest of her blog post where she describes what it means to be a good reader and how important it is for parents to be involved in what their child is reading.

In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite banned books. I haven’t read many of the books on the most frequently challenged books of 2008 list but some of my favorites have made the list in the past. For example, the Harry Potter books are some of my all time favorites and also some of the most banned. Here are a few more:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird as a teenager and it is one of my all time favorite books. It was my high school English teacher’s favorite book and her enthusiasm for it rubbed off on me. When Atticus Finch stood up to all the racists in his community, despite the fact he knew he was going to lose, he displayed such courage. One of my favorite quotes from Atticus: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” Another one of my favorite quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird is particularly relevant to Banned Books Week. Scout says, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

Reasons for being banned: The Pulitzer Prize winning novel is challenged for it’s racial themes and use of racial slurs.


The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is another book I read in high school English class and loved (I’m suddenly very grateful that my teacher didn’t shy away from teaching potentially controversial books). Amie’s review (which you can read here) pretty much says it all.

Reasons for being banned: Profanity and sexual references are the main reason The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popular targets for censors. Although a group in Columbus, Ohio, tried to have it banned from local schools for being “anti-white.”


A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Like many kids, Shel Silverstein’s books A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends were my introduction to poetry. I loved the silly rhymes, made up words, and funny illustrations. His books were favorites in our household.

Reasons for being banned: A Light in the Attic has been banned because it encourages children to break dishes. Where the Sidewalk Ends for encouraging children to be rebellious and misbehave. Here’s one of the poems in question:

How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes by Shel Silverstein

If you have to dry the dishes

(Such an awful boring chore)

If you have to dry the dishes

(‘Stead of going to the store)

If you have to dry the dishes

And you drop one on the floor

Maybe they won’t let you

Dry the dishes anymore

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