By Lee Walker Watson, age 13
Every year, in the last week of September, books that have been banned in certain communities are publicized by the coalition of librarians, educators and publishing companies who organize Banned Books Week.
“Banned books” are books that have been removed from shelves based on recommendations by teachers, librarians or parents for fear that children will be exposed to certain ideas or values by reading them. Some books that have been banned or challenged include The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, because it was deemed “anti-cop” and includes profanity, drug use and sexual references; Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier, for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes; and the Captain Underpants series, written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey, because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 “in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.” That same year, the Supreme Court, in Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico, ruled 5 to 4 that public schools can ban books that are “educationally unsuitable” or “pervasively vulgar,” but cannot remove books “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.”
Every year, the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles attempts to ban books in communities across the country, submitted by members of the media, teachers and librarians, in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools.
Banned Books Week organizes a number of initiatives to highlight books that have been banned — for example, asking libraries to make displays of these books, encouraging people to video themselves reading these books and post it on their YouTube channel. Most importantly, Banned Books Week is when people come together and celebrate the magic of reading, the freedom of ideas and the importance of access to information.
Censorship: The suppression of ideas and information — the banning of books, films, news, etc., that are considered obscene (offensive or indecent) , politically unacceptable or a threat to security.