PRINCETON — Many librarians, booksellers, journalists and teachers all around have fought for the freedom to read.
Books are challenged everyday by groups of people who consider them unorthodox or unpopular. Thousands of books have been pulled from library shelves everywhere because of what is termed “offensive” content they express. The idea of censoring and taking books away from readers has created anger and disappointment for many book-lovers all around.
Banned Books Week highlights the value of free and open access to information.
Joyce Sondgeroth, director of the LaMoille-Clarion Public Library, believes it’s important people realize there are others out there who are trying to take away the right to read certain books.
“Banned Books Week is a right people should not take for granted,” she said. “Instead of simply not reading it, people want to remove the materials, so it won’t be available to anyone else. We all have the right to read what we want just like we have the right not to read what we don’t.”
For Karyn Stark, director of Tiskilwa Public Library, Banned Books Week means if someone comes into the library and demands a book be removed from the shelf, the library has the legal right to defend the book and not remove it.
Stark said a while back a priest came into her library and demanded she remove the “Harry Potter” book series.
“I asked the priest, ‘Did you read the book?’ and he hadn’t; he just knew what it was about, and that it was bad,” she said. “I said, ‘Until you read the book, I’m not even going to have this discussion.’”
Stark has never regretted defending the books challenged in her library.
“Harry Potter has actually brought families together because they could both enjoy and discuss the books,” she said. “It got children to read who didn’t want to read or who were reluctant to read.”
Stark said people who challenge books are “close minded.”
“I just don’t know a better word,” she said. “All their emotions are based on the unknown. It’s based on fear.”
Vanessa Zimmerlein, who is the library aide at LaMoille-Clarion Public Library, believes people who try to ban books are afraid the content will change and warp readers into immoral people.
“They think you can’t think for yourself,” she said.
Zimmerlein named off reason why books are challenged: Language, sexual content, violence or drugs.
“You can’t pretend those things don’t exist,” she said. “I can understand putting them in a section for a certain age group or something like that, but to get rid of them altogether is just kind of horrible.”
According to the American Library Association (ALA), more than 5,099 book challenges were reported in the last decade to the Office for Intellectual Freedom. The top reasons why the books were challenged include sexually explicit material, offensive language, material deemed unsuited to an age group, violence and homosexuality.
Most challenges take place in school libraries, classrooms and public libraries.
Censorship can be harmful, according to Sondgeroth.
“If you’re taking away all these different ideas and thoughts and you’re only getting one perspective on different things, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or whatever, how can anyone grow or how can anyone know what the rest of the world looks like?” she questioned. “There’s a whole world out there; you don’t want to censor that; you don’t want to be a closed community; you want to have the whole world available to everybody.”
While there is only one week that officially recognizes Banned Books Week, Stark said it’s something people should be aware of everyday.
“That’s how I embrace it. We’re always talking about it and dealing with it. It’s too important to just celebrate in one week.”
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Top 100 banned/challenged books in the last decade
1. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
16. Forever by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing by Robie Harris
38. Arming America by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground by Avi
43. Blubber by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard
and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
48. Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me? by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series) by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill by John Grisham
68. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series) by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series) by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It! by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children by Garth Nix
96. Grendel by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel by E.R. Frank
Source: American Library Association.