Banned Books Week 2009 is the 28th annual celebration of the freedom to read. This freedom, not only to choose what we read, but also to select from a full array of possibilities.
Each year, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were “challenged” (their removal from school or library shelves was requested). The ALA estimates the number represents only about a quarter of the actual challenges. “Most Challenged” titles include the popular “Harry Potter” series of fantasy books for children by J.K. Rowling. The series drew complaints from parents and others who believe the books promote witchcraft to children.
The challenges reported reflect a continuing concern with a wide variety of themes. Other “Most Challenged” titles include “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, for its use of language, particularly references to race; “It’s Perfectly Normal,” a sex education book by Robie Harris, for being too explicit, especially for children; and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, for the description of rape she suffered as a child.
Observed since 1982, Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). It celebrates the freedom to read and reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.
This year’s celebration will kick off on Sept. 26 with a “Read-Out!” event at historic Bughouse Square on Chicago’s North Side. Authors will perform readings from their banned or “challenged” books and will sign copies of their works.