Troublesome Books

Sarah Herron

Celebrate Your Right to Read! Celebrate Banned Book Week!

Have you ever read Harry Potter? The poetry of Shel Silverstein? Catcher in the Rye? The Bible or the Koran? If so, you have read a book that has been challenged or banned somewhere in the United States and/or the world.

The Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association ( ) tracks reported challenges to literature and, in association with the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers for Free Expression; American Society of Journalists and AuthorsAssociation of American PublishersComic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Freedom to Read FoundationNational Coalition Against CensorshipNational Council of Teachers of EnglishNational Association of College StoresPeople for the American WayPEN American Center and Project Censored, sponsors Banned Book Week (BBW). The designated week celebrates the battle against censorship.

This year, Banned Book Week will be held September 27th to October 3rd. The focus will be on Young Adult Literature since “Young Adult books are challenged more frequently than any other type of book”, according to Judith Platt, chair of the BBW national committee. “These are the books that speak most immediately to young people, dealing with many of the difficult issues that arise in their own lives, or in the lives of their friends. These are the books that give young readers the ability to safely explore the sometimes scary real world.”

What is the difference between a challenged book and a banned book? A “challenged book” has a formal, written, signed request for restricted access and/or removal from the collection filed with the school district or the library system.  The “challenged” book is then read in its entirety and reviewed by a committee of professionals and community members which decides the location of the book. If the book is removed from or restricted within the collection, the book is considered “banned”.

What are some of the reasons for books being challenged? Sexuality, violence and unsuitable for age group are the leading reasons. Where are books most frequently challenged? Books are most likely to be challenged in schools, both in the classroom and the library, followed by the public library. Who is most often challenging book content? Parents and less often patrons. To be clear, the ALA believes that parents have the right to guide their children’s reading material. This guidance becomes a concern when material is restricted from all children.

During BBW,  your EHS Library Learning Center and the Salt Lake Public Library will be discussing the concept of intellectual freedom and the challenges and issues that the Salt Lake School District and the Salt Lake Public Libraries have faced. Come learn about troublesome books, the reasons why they present problems for some of us and the importance of allowing freedom of choice.