|Top 10 Includes 'Huck Finn,' 'Mice and Men' & 'Catcher in the Rye'
CHICAGO, Sept. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Some of America's finest literary efforts lead the 100 most frequently challenged books for Banned Books Week. And the Harry Potter series wasn't far behind.
The list is published by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom as part of Banned Books Week (September 23-30), which annually celebrates the freedom to read.
Topping the list is Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz, accused of "being too scary" and "unsuited to age group," followed by "Daddy's Roommate" by Michael Willhoite, accused of "promoting homosexuality as a normal lifestyle." The rest of the 10 most frequently challenged books of the decade, in order, were: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou (3), "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, "Forever" by Judy Blume, "Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson, "Heather Has Two Mommies" by Leslea Newman, and "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger (10).
Other well-known books on the list include: "The Giver" by Lois Lowry (11), "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris (13), Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine (15), "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker (17), "Sex" by Madonna (18), "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle (23), "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee (40), Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling (48), "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley (54) and "Bless Me, Ultima" by Rudolfo A. Anaya (78).
The top 100 list was compiled from 5,718 challenges to library materials reported to or recorded by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom from 1990-1999. A "challenge" is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness. Seventy-one percent of the challenges in the '90s decade were to materials in schools or school libraries; another 26 percent were to materials in public libraries. Nearly 60 percent of challenges were brought by parents, 16 percent by library patrons and 10 percent by administrators.
In 1995, the number of reported challenges reached a high of 762 challenges, but by 1999 had declined to 472.
This decline is likely due to an increased focus away from books to the Internet -- the newest medium in the library -- according to Judith Krug, the office's director. Despite this decline, Krug says, "Nobody should be complacent in thinking that books are safe from censorship attempts. Research shows that reported challenges represent only 20 to 25 percent of all challenges made. The fact that every challenge is an attempt to make ideas inaccessible to their intended audience is of even greater concern than the numbers."
The most often cited reason for requesting that a book be removed from the library or curriculum is that the book is "sexually explicit" (1,446 challenges). Other reasons for challenges included "offensive language" (1,262 challenges), "unsuited to age group" (1,167 challenges), "occult theme or promoting the occult or Satanism" (773 challenges), "violent" (630 challenges), homosexual theme or "promoting homosexuality" (497 challenges), "promoting a religious viewpoint" (397 challenges), "nudity" (297 challenges), "racism" (245 challenges), "sex education" (217 challenges) and "anti-family" (193 challenges).
The entire list of the top 100 challenged books of the last decade can be found at www.ala.org/bbooks/top100bannedbooks.html . The most challenged books of 1999 can be found at www.ala.org/bbooks/1999bannedbooks.html .
Observed since 1981, Banned Books Week is sponsored by the ALA, American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, American Society of Journalists and Authors, and National Association of College Stores. It is also endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.
"Banned Books Week is about choice and respecting the rights of others to choose for themselves and their families what they wish to read," says Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. "Book banning and challenging has a domino effect. If we stand by quietly and let the first book come off the shelf, we run the risk they all will come tumbling down."
Judy Platt, director of the Association of American Publishers' Freedom to Read program, concurs. "Banned Books Week reminds Americans not to take our freedom to read for granted. It's one of the most precious freedoms we have in a democratic society."
This year's Banned Books Weeks theme is "Fish in the River of Knowledge." Libraries and bookstores across the country will provide displays around this theme and readings of banned or challenged books as part of the week-long celebration. Contact your library or bookstore for more information.