Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read granted by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution highlights the many debates and legal struggles over these rights in the past.Those continue in the present day when books are challenged at public and school libraries. In a Washington Post interview, James La Rue, executive director of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2018 and 2019, put it this way: “There are so many places like in rural communities where you say, ‘Well, the book isn’t banned. It’s still been published. It’s still available on Amazon. It’s still in a bookstore.’ But let’s say you’re a young gay kid, and you go to your library, and David Levithan’s ‘Two Boys Kissing’ has been removed, and so you don’t know that it’s there. You don’t have a credit card to get it from Amazon. You can’t hop in a car if you’re 14 years old and drive to a bookstore. So the ban is not a trivial thing. It’s a deliberate suppression of a viewpoint that has real consequences for people.” La Rue points out to parents who challenge books to protect their children “If I say, ‘I don’t want my child to read this,’ you have the right to do that. But when you try to remove it from the library, you’re saying that other people’s children don’t have the right to read it.”
Of the books in the Library of Congress exhibit of "Books That Shaped America", almost one-third had been banned or challenged in libraries. Some still are today. Among them are these titles in our library:
According to the American Library Association's most current information (as of September 2022), 44% of challenges occur in school libraries. Compare this to the 1990-2009 information below and you can see a dramatic shift in the spaces that books are banned.
Currently, 39% of challenges are initialed by parents, whereas only 1% are by students.
Why are books challenged? This chart shows what the American library Association found in 2018. Butler University's guide lists the most common reasons for book challenges 1990-2009 , and offers historical statistics on who was the challenger, and the type of library.