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banned books

captnunderpantsIn honor of banned books week last week, today’s post will discuss the popular children’s book series Captain Underpants by author Dav Pilkey.

The Captain Underpants series revolves around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, and Captain Underpants himself, the superhero alter-ego of Mr. Krupp, the cruel and antagonistic school principal, who first becomes Captain Underpants after being hypnotized by the two boys. The book series includes 10 books and 3 spin-offs, and won a Disney Adventures Kids’ Choice Award in 2007.

And according to the American Library Association, it also has the distinction of being the most frequently challenged book of 2012. It has appeared on the list in the past but this is the first year it made it to the top spot; reasons cited were “Offensive language” and “unsuited for age group”. And admittedly, the subject matter, primarily toilet humor and gross-out gags, as well as a subversive and somewhat anti-authoritarian message, might raise eyebrows for some parents. But as children’s librarian Laura Giunta explains in this recent essay, banned books week is all about

[celebrating] the freedom to read, even if that includes reading material that others deem to be objectionable or inappropriate. The freedom to read is linked to our first amendment rights, specifically that we are not only entitled to our beliefs, but that we have the freedom to express them without the threat of censorship. Public and school libraries have a duty to uphold these rights and to provide a forum for all ideas to be represented, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them all. As outlined in the Library Bill of Rights, the library is not simply a place to get books, but one that affirms intellectual freedom – that is, an entity that ensures equal and uncensored access to information for all people, including information that represents varying viewpoints, beliefs, or cultural perspectives…As we celebrate “Banned Books Week,” we celebrate the freedom to read, not just for ourselves, but for everyone, including those with different beliefs, views, and values than our own. We celebrate the freedom to be subversive and irreverent, to dissent against the majority perspective, to challenge societal norms, and to disagree with authority.

So consider picking up a copy of Captain Underpants (or any of the many other frequently challenged books) and enjoy not only the “Action”, “Thrills” and “Laffs”, but also the freedom to read whatever you wish.

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Sep 28 2011

Banned Books Week

by Joseph M

We’re currently in the middle of Banned Books Week, where we take a moment to think critically about topics like access to information and censorship.  Something that always strikes me when I’m looking at the lists of the frequently challenged and banned titles is the number of books I read and really enjoyed in high school, such as To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies.  It’s hard for me to imagine not having the opportunity to read and discuss these classics just because someone else out there thinks they are inappropriate.  What are some of your favorite banned books?

In keeping with the theme, I’d also like to take a moment to mention a little something called The Library Bill of Rights.  Adopted by the American Library Association council in 1939 and amended over the next six decades, it is especially relevant to this topic, so I’ve included it below:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries that make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

As someone who is passionate about providing access to information for our communities, I feel heartened knowing about these guidelines.

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Sep 24 2010

Banned Books Week

by Jesse M

Banned Books Week begins tomorrow, as it has every year during the last week of September since its inception in 1982. What is it? Put simply, Banned Books Week is a national celebration of the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.

Why celebrate Banned Books Week?

There are hundreds of challenges to books in schools and libraries in the United States every year (a challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness). According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 460 in 2009; the ALA estimates that “for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported”. To get an idea of the frequency and breadth of book challenges, take a look at this map of book bans and challenges across the U.S. from 2007-2010. So to answer the question “why celebrate banned books week?” I will quote from the ALA website, since they put it much more eloquently than I could:

Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

All manner of books have come under fire at various times over the past century, many of which are considered classic works of literature, including John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. You can view a more comprehensive list of banned or challenged classics here, along with a description of where they were challenged, by whom, and for what reason. Alternately, if you prefer perusing data in a visual format, you can view bar graphs of challenges broken down by year, reason, initiator, and institution.

You may be curious as to what books are drawing the ire of censors these days. If so, take a look at this list of the ten most challenged books of 2009, or this list of the top 100 challenged books of the past decade (which includes, ironically enough, Fahrenheit 451, a classic science fiction novel featuring a future society which has made reading a crime and institutionalized the practice of burning books). You may even come across something you’d like to read!

Happy Banned Books Week!

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Oct 2 2008

The Catcher in the Rye

by Jimmy L

One of my favorite books ever was also a very controversial one.  It has been frequently challenged and banned, and yet it has also become one of the most studied books in high school classrooms across the country.  If you really want to hear about it, the first thing the bookseller told me when I took my used copy of The Catcher in the Rye up to the counter was “Hope you’re not thinking about becoming a mass murderer!” followed by an uncomfortable chuckle at his own joke.

Indeed, this book has earned quite a reputation.  In addition to having profanity and sexual content, it was also the book that Mark David Chapman was sporting when he was arrested after assassinating John Lennon.  John Hinckley, Jr., the attempted assassinator of Ronald Reagan, was also obsessed with the book.

But when I read this book, I don’t see any of that.  Just a warning, spoilers follow:

[read the rest of this post…]

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Oct 1 2008

Banned Children’s Books

by Ginny C

The previous posts this week have talked about Banned Books Week and mentioned some of the books that are among the most frequently banned or challenged.  (For the difference between a banned book and a challenged book, see here.)  ALA has several good lists of challenged books, both for this year and going back to 1990.

Did you look at any of those lists?  If you did, what did you notice?  If you’re like me, you noticed that a lot of them are children’s books.  Authors like Judy BlumeBarbara Park, J.K. Rowling, and Shel Silverstein all have books on these lists.

Books on these lists can also be good discussion starters with your child.  If you or your child has read any of the challenged or banned books, talk about why someone might have wanted it removed from the library.  Discuss the character’s actions and what you hope your child would do in a similar situation.  (Please remember that not all of the books on the list are appropriate for all children or for all ages.  Preview the books first to decide if it’s something you want your child to read.)

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Sep 29 2008

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

by Nolan R

What do Their Eyes were Watching God, As I Lay Dying, A Farewell to Arms, The Bluest Eye, Slaughterhouse Five, Invisible Man, The Color Purple, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Call of the Wild all have in common? They’re all on a list of classic literature?  Best novels of the 20th century?  Books you struggled to finish in English class?  Possibly.  But one thing they do have in common is the fact that they have all been challenged or even banned from some libraries and schools.

This week is Banned Books Week, and we’d like to take some time to explain the history of Banned Books Week, give a few examples, and talk about some of our favorite “banned” books.

Why celebrate it?  Banned Books Week, first recognized in 1982, is observed during the last week of September. According to the American Library Association website, “Banned Books Week emphasizes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

Have books really been banned?  Most “banned” books are actually “challenged” books, which means that someone made a complaint about them.  A challenge is a request to remove a book from a library or school; a banned book is a book that is actually removed due to a challenge.  Generally, most challenged books are not ultimately banned.

Who challenges books?  Lots of people, for lots of reasons, although parents are generally listed as the top challengers.  Those challenging books have good intentions–they usually want to protect someone from something that conflicts with their beliefs.

Want to learn more?  Check out the BBW or ALA, or befriend BBW on Facebook or MySpace.  Don’t forget to check back here throughout the week for more information on banned and challenged books.

What’s my favorite banned book?  There are a lot of good titles on the lists, but one of my favorites is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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Sep 26 2007

Read any banned books lately?

by Heather O

Odds are you have read some banned books, or at the very least you’ve probably read a book that has been challenged: books in the Harry Potter series, “Gossip Girl”, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings“, “The Bluest Eye“, “The Color Purple“, and “Captain Underpants” have all been challenged.

A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.[1] Sexually explicit and offensive language were  the most cited reasons for challenging a book but other reasons include: violence, homosexuality, racism, promoting occult themes or Satanism, anti-family, or “unsuited to age group”.

Celebrate the freedom to read September 29 – October 6 by checking out a book from your Dekalb County Public Library.

More?
Most challenged books of 2006
Harry Potter and the Censor’s Flames 
Banned Classics
ALA Banned Books MySpace Page

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