Do people really ban books?

For 35 years, the American Library Association (ALA) has been celebrating "Banned Books Week," a time that we showcase books that people have tried to remove from libraries and schools in an attempt to prevent people from reading them. But some people think that in America, we no longer ban books. Is this the case?

According to ALA and the librarians who have had to field challenges to books, yes! Every year, ALA receives reports when books are challenged by members of the community. Usually, these challenges do not result in removal or destruction of the book.  But sometimes the book is removed from the library in question, and in that case, this is considered a ban on the book. That is because the attempt to prevent access to the book has been successful.

This past year, the ten most challenged books in America included five teen books, two children's books, and three adult books. Five of the books challenged were opposed due to LGBTQ content.  Almost all were accused of being too sexually explicit (even the children's books) and some were cited for "offensive lanugage."  These are the top challenged teen books from 2016:

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
  3. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
    Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
  4. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
    Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
  5. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
    Reason: challenged for offensive language

At the library, we know not every book is for every person.  But we also believe that every person has the right to access any book of their choosing.  A community member can decide for themselves if they do not wish to read a book they deem offensive - and they can certainly determine that their child can't read a book. But when they wish to remove a book from a library entirely, they are interfering with your freedom to access it.

All of these books are available at the Cumberland Public Library if you wish to read them!

You can learn more about Banned Books Week and other books that have been challenged at their official website. You can also stop by the library and take our Banned Books Hunt, a scavenger hunt where you track down books that have been banned in the past, for a small prize. Download the TrekSolver app (for Android or Apple) and play on your next visit!

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