About Banned Books
The American Library Association promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.
- Challenge - an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.
- Banning - 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. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.
Descriptions on this website are taken directly from the ALA Banned Books webpage as well as from the Yearly lists of Banned and Challenged Books, and multiple banned book descriptive websites (Search for banned children's books or banned picture books).
Children's Books and Poetry
Some of the books on this list may surprise you, but all of these have either been challenged or banned from libraries.
Challenge Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
The book was primarily banned in most southern states immediately following its publication in 1963, and it has since been challenged due to the fact that it promotes “witchcraft and supernatural events.
In 2006, this book was banned in Kansas because talking animals are considered an “insult to god.
Complaints against the series assert that they contain “excessive violence” for books intended for children under the age of twelve; and charges of depicting occult or satanic themes. Some parents have argued that the books violated zero tolerance policies on violence in schools; other parents, and even some school officials, around the country have alleged that the books might provoke harmful thoughts or behavior, and encourage disrespect for people and property. The claims went so far as to accuse Stine of having an ulterior motive of hooking young children with the collection as a prelude to more graphic and perverse books like the “Fear Street” series.
The “Captain Underpants” series of children’s books was removed from the Maple Hill School in Naugatuck, CT in 2000, due to concerns that they caused unruly behavior among children. The books were also challenged but retained at the Orfordville, WI Elementary School library. A parent charged that they taught students to be disrespectful; not to obey authority; not to obey the law, including God’s law; improper spelling; to make excuses and lie to escape responsibility; to make fun of what people wear; and poor nutrition. The “Captain Underpants” books effectively use humor and illustrations to captivate young readers, particularly “reluctant readers” who may not otherwise enjoy reading, and inspire with their stories of ingenuity and imagination.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A Colorado library banned the book because it embraced a “poor philosophy of life.” Additionally, since its publication in 1964, the book was under fire for comparing the Oompa Loompas to Africans. The characters’ descriptions were later changed in an edited version in 1988.
In 1928, all public libraries in Chicago banned the book because of its “ungodly” influence “for depicting women in strong leadership roles.” In 1957, the Detroit Public Library banned the book for having “no value for children of today.
Where the Sidewalk Ends was yanked from the shelves of West Allis-West Milwaukee, Wisconsin school libraries in 1986 over fears that it “promotes drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for authority, and rebellion against parents.” Members of the Central Columbia School District in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania must have confused the year 1993 with 1393 when they objected to the poem Dreadful over the line “someone ate the baby” because they feared some of their more impressionable students might actually be encouraged to engage in cannibalism. Sidewalk was also challenged in the Xenia, Ohio, school district in 1983; and by the public school system in Minot, North Dakota in 1986
This favorite childhood book was banned from a public library in Colorado (1988) because it was considered “sexist.” It was also challenged by several schools because it “criminalized the foresting agency.”
Young Adult Books
These books are written for a young adult audience and have also been either challenged, and in some cases, banned from school libraries.
In 2003, “The Giver” was challenged as suggested reading for eighth-grade students in Blue Springs, MO, where parents called the book “lewd” and “twisted” and pleaded for it to be tossed out of the district. The book was reviewed by two committees and recommended for retention, but the controversy continued for more than two years. Lowry’s novel for young readers has frequently attracted objections due to its “mature themes” including suicide, sexuality, and euthanasia. “The Giver” received the Newbery Medal in 1994.
Beginning with “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” published in 1997, this series of seven novels dominated both bestseller lists and the imaginations of readers across the globe. At the same time, controversy over magic and witchcraft in the stories prompted frequent book banning attempts, and even book burnings. In 2002, the books were proposed for removal, along with more than fifty other titles, by a teachers’ prayer group at the high school in Russell Springs, KY because they dealt with ghosts, cults, and witchcraft. That same year, a federal judge overturned restricted access to “Harry Potter” after parents of a Cedarville, AK fourth-grader filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement that students present written permission from a parent to borrow the books. The novels were originally challenged because they characterized authority as “stupid” and portrayed “good witches and good magic.
Challenged and presented to the Goffstown, N.H. school board (2010) by a parent claiming that it gave her eleven-year-old nightmares and could numb other students to the effects of violence.
Challenged at the Austin Memorial Library in Cleveland, Tex. (2014), along with other young adult books that have a vampire theme. A local minister requested that the, “occultic (sic) and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.” Banned in Australia (2009) for primary school students because the series is too racy. Librarians have stripped the books from shelves in some junior schools because they believe the content is too sexual and goes against religious beliefs. They even have asked parents not to let kids bring their own copies of Stephenie Meyer’s smash hit novels — which explore the stormy love affair between a teenage girl and a vampire — to school.
The Diary of a Young Girl
Challenged, but retained in the Northville, Mich. middle schools (2013) despite anatomical descriptions in the book. Before the school district’s vote, ten free speech organizations signed a letter urging the Northville School District to keep the book. The letter, which was sent to the superintendent and board of education members, “emphasized the power and relatability of Frank’s diary for middle school students. Frank’s honest writings about her body and the changes she was undergoing during her two-year period of hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam can serve as an excellent resource for students themselves undergoing these changes.” Challenged at the Culpeper County, Va. Public schools (2010) by a parent requesting that her daughter not be required to read the book aloud. Initially, it was reported that officials decided to stop assigning a version of Anne Frank’s diary, one of the most enduring symbols of the atrocities of the Nazi regime, due to the complaint that the book includes sexual material and homosexual themes. The director of instruction announced the edition published on the fiftieth anniversary of Frank’s death in a concentration camp will not be used in the future despite the fact the school system did not follow its own policy for handling complaints. The remarks set off a hailstorm of criticism online and brought international attention to the 7,600-student school system in rural Virginia. The superintendent said, however, that the book will remain a part of English classes, although it may be taught at a different grade level. The diary has now been published in more than sixty different languages and is on several lists of the top books of the twentieth century.