Last week the National Book Foundation recognized children’s author Judy Blume for her contributions to American letters. This week the American Library Association (ALA) announced that Ms. Blume is also the second-most censored author of the past 15 years. The latest announcement coincides with the nationwide celebration of Banned Books Week, September 25 to October 2, 2004.
Since 1982, libraries and booksellers across the nation use the Banned Books Week to call attention to attempts to prohibit the reading and distribution of books--reminding Americans about the importance of freedom of choice and the freedom to read. More than 7,500 books have been targeted for banning through official challenges over the past decade.
Banned Books Week is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book and sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores.
Special events, displays and readings will be held around the nation. The American Library Association list of the top 10 list of authors is:
1. Alvin Schwartz
2. Judy Blume
3. Robert Cormier
4. J.K. Rowling
5. Michael Willhoite
6. Katherine Paterson
7. Stephen King
8. R.L. Stine
9. John Steinbeck
10. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Diana L. Guerrero, author of “What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality” and the founder of the Alliance of Writers, a mixed genre writing network said, "The literary community wants people to browse freely, read, and respects their choices. It's up to us as readers and writers to protect those rights."
“What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality” went into a second printing within seven months of release, but some people protest the topic. “What amazes me,” Guerrero continued, “is that this still happens. Unfortunately, many protesters don’t even know what is really contained within the pages.”
Cries over the content in JK Rowling’s fictional, “Harry Potter” series or Dan Brown’s fictional novel, “The Davinci Code” have sparked controversy. JK Rowling currently ranks 4th on the banned author list.
Bookstores and libraries across the nation will join in the week long celebration with displays and readings of books that have been banned or threatened throughout history. These include works ranging from the Bible and "Little Red Riding Hood" to John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."
Each year, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were "challenged" or whose removal from school or library shelves was requested. The ALA estimates the number represents only about a quarter of the actual challenges.
The challenges reported reflect a continuing concern with a wide variety of themes. The most challenged titles include the popular fantasy “Harry Potter” series, complaints from parents and others stem from the belief that the books promote witchcraft to children; "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.
For more information on the event, please visit www.ala.org/bbw2004.
To see the top 100 list of the most frequently banned books, please visit: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.htm.