Banned & Challenged Books Week Shines the Light on Censorship

September 22 – 28 is Banned Books Week!
Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark. Keep the Light On.

Earlier this month a Catholic school in Nashville, Tennessee banned J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels because of fears that the books’ magical spells “risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.” Surprised? You shouldn’t be. In “Harry Potter and 20 Years of Controversy“, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom describes the history of challenges against the beloved series since the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was published in the United States in 1999.

This isn’t an isolated incident. In 2018, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracked 347 challenges to library, school and university materials. The graphic below reveals the Top 11 most frequently challenged books of 2018, and you can download the complete list of all titles challenged last year from the OIF’s website.

Please join us in celebrating free and open access to information during Banned Books Week. Visit our lobby to browse a pop-up display of banned and challenged books. While you’re here grab a button to show your support for the freedom to read.

For more information about banned and challenged books, visit the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books webpage to view the top 10 challenged books by year, banned and challenged classics, Banned Books Q&A, and more. Don’t forget to follow #BannedBooksWeek on Twitter and Instagram to stay abreast of the latest news.

Banned Books Week: Celebrate Your Freedom to Read!

September 23 – 29 is Banned Books Week!

Held annually during the last week of September, Banned Books Week is a time for librarians, booksellers, teachers, publishers, journalists and readers to highlight the value of free and open access to information.

In 2017, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) logged 354 challenges to library, school and university materials and services (including books, DVDs, magazines, programs, databases, games, exhibits and displays). In those 354 challenges, 416 books were targeted. The OIF estimates that 82-97% of challenges remain unreported.

Stop by the library this week to check out our Banned Books Week pop-up display, and grab a button and bookmark to show your support for the freedom to read. We’ve also curated a Banned and Challenged Books eBook and audiobook collection in OverDrive.

For more information about banned and challenged books, visit the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books webpage to view the top 10 challenged books by year, banned and challenged classics, Banned Books Q&A, and more. Don’t forget to follow #BannedBooksWeek on Twitter and Instagram to stay abreast of the latest news.

Stop by the library this week to check out our Banned Books Week pop-up display, and grab a button and bookmark to show your support for the freedom to read!

On Display: Words Have Power – Read a Banned Book!

According to the American Library Association website, “A [book] challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”

child reading a book with fist raised
American Library Association

In 2016, 323 book challenges were recorded in the United States by the American Library Association. (It is worth noting that many challenges go unreported.) The majority of challenges occurred against materials found in public and school libraries, and were most commonly brought by parents and public library users. The most common reasons for book challenges are: sexually explicit subject matter, offensive language, and religious viewpoint. ALA does not track international challenges, but history records many instances in which books have been censored and/or suppressed based on political viewpoint and other reasons deemed offensive to the state or nation.

In conjunction with Banned Books Week 2017 and through the month of October/beginning of November, we’ve provided a selection of fiction titles that have been reported as challenged and/or banned by public libraries, school libraries, and countries. Also included are some nonfiction titles on censorship topics. Stop by to take a look at the books on display or view them online (and place holds on anything you’d like to check out). Books on display each contain a banned-books-themed bookmark, which readers are welcome to keep. We’ve also made some buttons which are free for the taking.

If you use our OverDrive Downloadable Books , a list of banned and challenged books appears when you log into that collection.

Exercise your freedom to seek and express ideas- read a banned book!


Read at Your Own Risk!

“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.” – Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Each year, libraries and bookstores around the country celebrate our freedom to read during Banned Books Week. Since the first Banned Books Week in 1982, the American Library Association reports that over 11,000 books have been challenged or banned in the United States.

A challenge is when a person or group tries to “remove or restrict” a book from a library or school. Banning is when that item is removed completely from a library or school.

J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, and Stephen Chbosky are among the authors whose works have been banned or challenged in the United States. As recently as last year, there were over 300 challenges reported to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.


The individuals or groups challenging these books have wanted them banned for a myriad of reasons. Anti-family (Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples), “depictions of bullying” (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie), and “controversial issues” (The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison) are just the tip of the iceberg. All three of these works were among the top ten most challenged titles of 2014 and are part of our “Read at Your Own Risk!” display.

Celebrate your freedom to read by checking out one of these books, on display in the library through October 5. During Banned Books Week, being held September 27 – October 3, stop by the Library Services desk to get a free Banned Books Week bookmark (while supplies last). And don’t forget search our Overdrive collection for downloadable challenged eBooks like The Hunger Games, Freakonomics, and Looking for Alaska.

Display co-produced by Amy Galante and Kristen Richards from Library Services. Kristen’s favorite controversial book is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Amy is partial to Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more scandalous literary picks from the Bentley community. 

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

BBW14_CoverArt_op1Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read, is taking place this week, September 21 – 27, 2014. During Banned Books Week, librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, authors, teachers and readers work together to draw attention to the freedom to seek and express ideas. You can follow this national conversation by liking the Banned Books Week page on Facebook, following the #bannedbooksweek hashtag on Twitter, and watching the celebrity Virtual Read-Out videos on the Banned Books Week YouTube Channel.

In 2013, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) logged 307 book challenges. You can find specific details about some of those challenges in this document: 2013-2014 Books Challenged or Banned. Last year, challenges were made against classics such as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, as well as contemporary bestsellers such as John Green’s Looking for Alaska. In one instance, a history textbook was challenged in a Florida county, and protesters went so far as to recommend that student volunteers tear a chapter out of the textbook.

Statistics show that most book challenges occur in public libraries, school libraries and classrooms. The Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates that up to 85 percent of actual challenges to library materials receive no media attention and remain unreported. Visit the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books webpage to view the top 10 challenged books by year, banned and challenged classics, most frequently challenged authors and more. Please take a moment this week to reflect upon your freedom to read.

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week
September 30 – October 6, 2012

Banned Books Week 2012This year marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, a week used to recognize our freedom to read and to call attention to attempts to challenge that freedom.  Banned Books Week is especially celebrated in the library community. This is not surprising, given that libraries have a long history of, and commitment to, providing unfettered access to information and ideas.

Last year, libraries across the United States reported 326 book challenges to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The 2011 top 10 most frequently challenged books included:

  • The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins (Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group)
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (Reasons: offensive language; racism)

If you’d like to learn more about banned and challenged books, take a look at this special timeline – 30 Years of Liberating Literature – or visit the Frequently Challenged Books website. One of the ways in which you can show your support of Banned Books Week is to participate in the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out.  The Read-Out is a way for readers from around the world to participate in the 30th anniversary celebration of Banned Books Week by posting videos to a dedicated YouTube channel.  In this video, several well-known authors discuss their favorite banned books.

We hope you’ll take a moment this week to reflect upon your freedom to read.

It’s Banned Books Week! Banned & Challenged Books are On Display.

From September 24 through October 1, the Bentley Library joins libraries around the country in observing Banned Books Week. During Banned Books Week, we celebrate the freedom to read by bringing attention to efforts to curtail that freedom. From classics to children’s books to nonfiction, hundreds of books are challenged in the US each year for a host of reasons, with the most frequent from 1990 to 2010 being sexually explicit content, offensive language, and violence. Real numbers are much higher since so many challenges are never reported to the American Library Association, which has been tracking challenges since 1990. Most challenges take place in schools, school libraries, and public libraries, but academic libraries are not immune to questions about controversial materials, and academic libraries’ dedication to research and free inquiry means that we have a particularly strong obligation to protect access to ideas and information of all kinds.

Stop by the library to view our display of banned and challenged books. You’ll find a sampling of classic and contemporary titles that have been at the center of controversy at schools and libraries in the United States and abroad, along with a description of why each title was challenged.

You can celebrate Banned Books Week in many ways:


Banned Books Week Begins Sept. 25

Banned Books Week is Sept. 25 – Oct. 2
Celebrate your freedom to read!

What do The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Harry Potter have in common?  They are all books that have been banned or challenged at libraries and schools in the United States.  In fact, it’s likely you have read a few Banned or Challenged Classics.

Beginning in 1982, Banned Books Week (BBW) has been celebrated annually to mark the importance of intellectual freedom, the freedom to read and the First Amendment. Each year the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles and publishes a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books at libraries and schools.

According to the OIF, 460 challenges to materials were reported  in 2009.  Included in that year’s top 10 challenged books list are Twilight,  To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chocolate War, and The Color Purple.

Over the past nine years (2001-2009), the OIF reported that American libraries were faced with total of 4,312 challenges, which included:

  • 1,413 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material
  • 1,125 challenges due to “offensive language”
  • 897 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”
  • 514 challenges due to “violence”
  • 344 challenges due to “homosexuality”
  • 109 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family”
  • 269 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints”

Thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students, most book challenges are unsuccessful.  We hope that during Banned Books Week 2010 you’ll take a moment to think about your freedom to read and consider the role that libraries play in protecting that right!

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.