As the American Library Association (ALA) celebrates Banned Book Week in the US in an effort to champion our intellectual freedom to read, it would appear that quite a few of our panellists want to celebrate ‘banned’ books too, whether it be in the classroom or in society as a whole.
No sense to censor
- When we asked around 800 panellists what they thought about banning books, respondents agreed that ‘books should never be censored’ as ‘freedom of speech is important’ and ‘people should be able to read what they like’.
- One person said ‘I think parents can go a bit crazy and overprotective...the reality of it is children will have to deal with all of these issues out in the real world, and I think it is better if they are prepared.’ The same person also added that censoring ‘sexuality and language’ means that teenagers are ‘just going to want to do these things more [sic]’.
- Another respondent echoed the sentiment recalling that the school they went to showed them ‘a number of 18 rated films’ and that they thought ‘such books and films can be highly educational and inform young people about stereotypes.’
- A couple of people pointed out that people can ‘opt to read’ controversial books and that ‘if they don’t want to be offended they don’t have to buy them’.
However, many disagreed, especially where children are concerned.
- Some felt that a certain level of book censorship should exist to protect children from being exposed to ‘violent or sexually explicit material as much as possible’, which could prove damaging as they have not yet ‘developed an adult critical faculty.’
- One person bluntly stated that ‘books should be censored,’ because ‘too many people wish to treat children like adults, which is wrong.’ The respondent continued, ‘children should be protected from sexual garbage.’
- Another person was pragmatic, simply saying that they wanted to see authors prosecuted ‘if they incite hatred based on grounds of race, sex, sexuality etc’. Common challengesBanned Book Week, which annually takes place from September 25th to October 2nd, was set up in 1982 to defend the public’s freedom to read. It helps draw attention to books that have been banned or challenged, and raises the profile of authors who have been unfairly persecuted for what they have written.According to research published by the ALA, the most common reasons why people challenge the reading or use of books include claims that they are ‘sexually explicit’, ‘unsuited to age group’ and contain ‘offensive language’, with parents and schools being the most frequent initiators of such challenges.The most challenged books of 2009 include three books that are normally considered classroom classics, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice Walker's The Color Purple and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. All three were last year deemed unsuitable for use as set reading texts by several schools in the United States.