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Banned Books Week 9/18-9/24/2022: How Does the Challenge Process Work?

Who Challenged Books?

What is censorship? 

Censorship is when an authoritative body attempts to remove books from schools, libraries, and bookstores because they object to their content, ideas and themes. The banning of books is considered a form of censorship. Those who advocate for the removal of books are usually arguing that the content is not suitable for children and therefore they should not risk being exposed to it. 

Top 10

Top 10 Challenged Books of the 90s (that we still read today)

  1. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  7. Forever, by Judy Blume
  8. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
  9. Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman
  10. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Where are the books challenged?

Where do the most challenges happen? 

Most challenges happen at the public library and schools. These challenges are usually the result of a well meaning parent or member of the community who wants to "protect the children" from the content in the book. Sometimes it may be one person challenging the book or it could become a whole group that finds the book to be offensive on a moral standpoint. 

What is the process to challenge a book?

When a book is challenged it must go through the challenge process. The person who initiated the challenge must read the whole book, fill out a challenge form and explain why, how and where in the book the offensive action took place, then the case will be presented in a hearing and decided whether it should be removed from the collection or retained. Many challenges do not get a hearing because the person who initiated it does not complete the challenge form and all the necessary requirements to make it official. The challenges that do get a hearing end in the book being retained, moved to a different part of the library, or in extreme cases - removed from the collection.  

How to stop censorship

How can we stop censorship? 

The American Libraries Association (ALA) has a great resource for what to do if a library or school gets challenged. You can use the reporting tool and follow the guidelines for best practices when someone challenges a book. The goal is to get the challenging body to understand that the book serves a purpose in the library (or on the reading list) and it should be retained so children can learn from it. 

Not all books fit everyone's tastes but it is important that books of all kinds are accessible to all people. It is that understanding that helps stop censorship and challenges. Many times people are against something they've only heard about through word of mouth and never sat down to examine it themselves, when given a try and some insight on how that book can benefit someone it helps to clear up any misunderstandings.