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Parents Attempt to Ban More Books Than Any Other Group

By Katherine Stone |

Banned Books

Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" is one of the most commonly challenged books.

This week, the American Library Association is celebrating Banned Books Week to promote the importance of the First Amendment and the problems of censorship by spotlighting books that have been challenged or banned.  As part of Banned Books Week, hundreds of libraries and bookstores across the country will create displays of challenged books.

According to the ALA, books are challenged when someone attempts ”… to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.”  If a challenge is successful and the materials are removed from school curricula or libraries, they are considered banned.

Did you know that The Hunger Games and Twilight were two of the top ten most challenged books last year?  And one of the most frequently challenged authors in 2010 was Judy Blume? Books in the beloved Harry Potter series have landed on the list as well.

I don’t know why, but I was surprised to learn that “parents challenge materials more often than any other group.”  Most of their objections involve an attempt to protect children from violence, bad language, sexuality, or difficult or objectionable concepts.  For instance, as recently as 2009, the book To Kill A Mockingbird has been challenged and even banned for the use of the “n-word.”

The ALA says most challenges fail because the books are successfully defended by librarians, teachers, parents and students.

The most commonly banned and challenged classics include:

  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
  • Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  • As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  • A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  • Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison

I guess I must have been lucky to live in a pretty free and open school district, because we read many of these.  Thank goodness for the people who fight back to make sure these books are available to all.  Thank goodness for the freedom to read!

Tell us: What is your favorite banned book?

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About Katherine Stone


Katherine Stone

Katherine Stone is the founder of the most widely-read blog in the world on postpartum depression, Postpartum Progress. She writes about parenting and maternal child health on Babble Voices and Babble Cares, as well as at Huffington Post Parents. Katherine is a mom of two and lives in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter at @postpartumprog. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katherine's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Parents Attempt to Ban More Books Than Any Other Group

  1. Sarah Caldwell says:

    So strange. My parents read To Kill a Mockingbird when it came out in paperback (yes, I’m that old.) and I read it because it was lying around. I can’t imagine parents complaining about it.

    I wouldn’t have it banned, but The Giving Tree is my most hated children’s book. The sexism implicit in it makes me gag every time. The boy is a user and the tree (she) is an enabler.

  2. Citizen Mom says:

    I would love for these parents and groups like them to look at the real problem – aliteracy, which is when someone is able to read but doesn’t.
    It is also really sad that 6 of the books listed were written by either women and/or African-African Americans – and all of them are modern. What about a story where two underage teenagers go behind their parents backs and get married, then the boy kills his wife’s cousin as well as the man she’s supposed to marry; then the two commit suicide. yes, that’s Romeo and Juliet. In fact, in the very opening scene, some young turks joke about forcing themselves on the rival family’s maids. Freshmen all over America read this play.
    I think parents’ concerns about these books are valid – these are challenging books. Parents should ask teachers serious questions about how they handling sensitive themes and addressing aspects of the books that could interfere with students getting the big picture.

  3. Micky says:

    I think “The Giving Tree” is a parable about the selfless giving, particularly a parent’s selflessness. We meet our kids’ needs (food, shelter, someone to lean on) without expecting anything in return. I think it speaks volumes about our individualistic, “me-first” culture that being selfless is viewed as weakness or doormat behavior.

  4. Jen says:

    I wonder if the people who try to ban 1984 get the irony…… I plan to make my children read all of those books.

  5. daria says:

    Beloved is my favorite of this group, and I’ve read them all. I also hate (with a passion) the giving tree. It’s hardly collectivist — the boy never takes care of the tree in her old age! what parent devotes all her/his livelihood to kids, leaving nothing left? That’s rather obscene to me, in any culture.

  6. lam says:

    Love the list, read all of them, quite a few in school. I read The Giving Tree with my son, and we read it as a very sad story about a boy who doesn’t notice or appreciate the love of the tree, and how despite this, the tree tries so desperately to show the boy her love by giving all that she has. We talk about whether or not the man has found happiness or peace or love in taking so much from the tree, whether the tree is wrong or sad or helpless in her giving, why does the tree give so much, whether or not the tree feels better when the boy comes back as an old man, what love is (and is not), how one knows (if ever) when they are giving too much in their love for someone, whether love is something we give, or something we trade… worthwhile ideas.

  7. amy says:

    I am with you LAM! I love that book and it can really stimulate some great conversation! (even in teeny-tiny people).

  8. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    People have given a lot of thought to the Giving Tree. I don’t like it enough to have ever purchased a copy for home, but it was read in my childrens’ preschool. My young children seem(ed) to need more humor in their daily reading.

  9. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Also, I can’t for the life of me figure out why parents can’t just enforce their reading rules on their own children, instead of trying to decide what my children get to read.

  10. TBerry says:

    I hate to see books banned from schools. Most of these books were on one classrooms or anther’s reading list for the school year or the summer in my high schools and some were read as early as elementary school (we had PreK-8). While I agree that books in schools should be age appropriate, by high school all of these should and many other classics should be available. Banning a book because it uses the “n” word is not legitimate, especially if it is used in the correct historical context (ex. Tom Sawyer). You can’t change history and you shouldn’t try. The “offensive” terminology and graphic examples used in many books are put there to make a point and to be authentic. “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a wonderful example of a book that can be very graphic and leaves the impression it was intended to because of it.

  11. o.n says:

    i don’t know why anybody would ever ban hunger games. It is one best books I’ve ever read and it doesn’t have any sex in it. I would definetly recommend that book to everyone

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