Welcome to the world of banned books. Use this guide to learn about censorship, the First Amendment, and challenged or banned books.
What is Censorship? According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), censorship is when words, images, or ideas are blocked or removed because someone finds them offensive. When an item is removed, we say it's been "banned". Banned Books On-Line is an exhibit of books that have been the objects of censorship or censorship attempts. It includes the classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. A "challenge" is an attempt to remove or restrict access to books and other materials.
Why do we care if a book is banned? The American Library Association (ALA) views a challenge or ban as a "threat to freedom of speech and choice", freedoms that are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. Watch the video below for a short description of the First Amendment. To see more short videos about Congress, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, check out the Facts of Congress youtube channel or read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and more at the government archives: The Charters of Freedom.
How does a book get removed? When a person or group decides that a book is not appropriate, a request is made to the library to remove the book or restrict access to it. The leaders of the library review the challenge and decide how to respond. Although many books are challenged, very few are actually removed. Find lists of challenged books at the ALA's Frequently Challenged Books.
Why does a book get challenged or banned? The National Coalition Against Censorship says books are challenged, censored and banned for many different reasons. Some of the most common include:
- Profanity: Books are often challenged for the language they contain. A good example is Captain Underpants and its sequels by Dav Pilkey.
- Sex: Parents and schools have challenged books for certain sexual passages. Works such as It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman have frequently been challenged.
- Violence: Objections to violent content are often based on the idea that these books make violence okay. Books challenged as too violent include Scary Stories to tell in the Dark and its sequels by Alvin Schwartz.
- Religion: Today, parents and ministers often object to works which discuss topics such as sex, evolution, or witchcraft or occult themes. An example of this is The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
Did this get you started? If you need more help, just ask a librarian!