Banned Books Week: What You Need to Know

Censorship is alive and well, as highlighted by Banned Books Week — and you might be surprised by who the most vocal challengers of books are.

The importance of the First Amendment and the concept of intellectual freedom might not always be readily apparent to most kids, but Banned Books Week is a great opportunity to make those lessons come alive for children — and adults.

Banned Books Week is held annually during the last week of Sept. (Sept. 30 to Oct. 6, 2012). The week is an occasion for libraries and bookstores across the U.S. to help folks realize just how real and ongoing a problem censorship is.

More than 11,000 books have been challenged (though not necessarily successfully censored) since 1982, the inaugural year of Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association (ALA), the vast majority of challenges to books are initiated locally by parents, likely in well-meaning attempts to protect their children. 

Last year, there were 326 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, based on everything from offensive language, to violence, insensitivity, religious viewpoint and sexual explicitness. In addition to those challenges, the ALA estimates that as many as 60 to 70 percent of challenges may go unreported.

Over the past year, the 10 most challenged titles were:

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle 

2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Among banned and challenged classics you’re likely familiar with are:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Beloved and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

If you’re interested in celebrating Banned Books Week as part of a lesson for your kids—or simply to feel like a rebellious reader—check out these additional resources:


TELL US: Do you think books should be banned from schools, bookstores or libraries?

Sandra October 01, 2012 at 06:55 PM
When I meet people who advocate banning books, and who give me lists of books they want banned, I always take their list, thank them, and tell them that I will encourage my kids to read those books. Our kids need a chance to read all different kinds of books, from all different viewpoints, not just the ones that some people think are suitable for them. It's okay for parents to not allow their kids to read some things, but don't try to tell me what is good for my kids!
Jody October 01, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I don't believe in censorship for adults but I think parents are well within their rights when schools or particular teachers require books that contain: pornography or other sexuality explicit content, graphic violent content, falsehoods presented as facts, and when all required reading only represents one political point of view. If you look at the link in the article, some of the books listed should not be required reading in schools or in school libraries. The Kite Runner? Wow, gaphic child rape; save this book for college. A People's History of the US by Howard Zinn? Are kids required to read other history books as well or just this communist interpretation of our history? Parents won't always agree on which books are inappropriate for young people.
Jody October 01, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Read Diane Ravitch's book, "The Language Police" to see how thousands of words, phrases, pictures, and topics are censored from all modern textbooks and how they must depict proportional representation of male to female, and races/national origin by percentage in our population. All types of family groups must be shown also. How can any meaningful and factual treatment of our history stay within these guidelines? This is the real and pervasive censorship. It's a thousand times worse than censoring some books from some libraries.
Sandra October 02, 2012 at 12:13 AM
My understanding is that most schools do not force kids to read books that their parents find objectionable. There is always the ability to opt out. Yes, parents should have the right to keep their kids from reading certain books if they feel their kids aren't ready for it. However, as a parent myself, I find it extremely upsetting when other parents try to force their beliefs onto my kids. That is why I'm against banning books completely. If you don't want your kids reading certain books, then by all means don't let them, but don't prevent my kids from having access to those books. I've seen lists of books that some parents believe should be banned, and it is ridiculous what some people object to. Frankly, I make it a point to bring those books home and show them to my kids, so they understand how different peoples' opinions can be.
Laurie October 04, 2012 at 08:37 PM
The books are not being burned in the streets, and no one is inspecting people's homes. Anyone is free to buy them, read them, share them. Public libraries cannot possibly hold every book published, and they are run with public money, so the public should be able to ban books from the public libraries based on the sensibilities of the community.


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