Every year, the American Library Association holds Banned Books Week in September. This is that week.
I’ve felt rather strongly about Banned Books Week for a long time – even before I met the teacher who was nearly fired because she put “Dealing With Dragons” on the reading list for her fifth-grade class (a parent, who had not read the book, asserted that it was “teaching witchcraft”; fortunately, the principal of her school had a sense of humor and could recognize parody when he saw it). I’ve felt even more strongly since I was asked to participate in a panel on censorship and book banning a few years ago, and discovered that most of the readers and writers in the audience hadn’t realized this sort of thing was still happening (except maybe in one or two benighted places far, far away from them).
Which actually didn’t surprise me. Because it’s not as if most efforts to get a book removed from the shelves of a library are high-publicity incidents, even within the local community. Not even the authors know, most of the time. Nobody sends you a note that says “Teacher asked to remove book from reading list” or “library asked to take book off shelves.” I only found out about the one teacher because I met her at a conference, and she happened to mention that my books had almost gotten her fired. According to the ALA data, 70 to 80 percent of book challenges are never reported to anyone outside the few folks who are actually involved in the incident. It is not at all uncommon for parents to be uninformed of challenges to books that are taking place at the school their own children attend.
Even so, rather a lot of children’s authors have book-banning stories, because we do school visits and talk to library conferences. So sometimes, we do hear things from librarians or teachers. Sometimes, we experience them personally – one multiple-award-winning author was asked to speak at a school and then disinvited because the title of one of her many children’s books contained the word “seance.” (The book was a straightforward mystery, with no actual occult or fantasy elements. Yes, I am saying that she was disinvited based on the title alone.) At least two others I know have been told they could speak at a conference, but that their books would not be on sale because of their content (in one case, a screamingly funny book about a gay teen; in the other, a series of poems and meditations on explicitly Christian themes).
This week is a good time to find out more. Many libraries have special events; if your schedule doesn’t allow for that, there are loads of web sites with information and lists of books that have been challenged.
Read a banned book today!
Learn more in general at: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/
What you can do suggestions: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/support.html