by Mary Tuma
In response to the growing number of books restricted in schools, libraries and bookstores, “Banned Books Week” (Sept. 22-28) was created in 1982 as a pushback to the censorship and a way to support the free expression of ideas. More than three decades later we're still restricting access to literature and groups are still fighting for their freedom to read. Institutions and organizations host literary events all over the country and even online– like the ‘Virtual Read-Out’, where banned authors read aloud excerpts of their novels.
More than 460 attempts to challenge material arose in 2012, according to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Of the challenges: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz and Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Why the opposition? The top three reasons cited for challenged books were: “sexually explicit”, “offensive language” and “unsuited to any age group.” As a result of commitment from librarians, teachers and other concerned citizens, writes the ALA, most challenges are unsuccessful and books remain on the shelves.
So, how do those attempts fare in Texas? In light of banned books week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas takes a look at the shelves at public schools in the state to report back with some “good news” – the number of banned books has been decreasing over the past 17 years. Only 10 books got the boot during the 2012-2013 school year. However, more books were challenged (aka attempts to ban) in Texas schools this year than last, according to the ACLU. Restrictions, bans or challenges took place in Comal, North East and Southwest ISDs, the ACLU report finds.
Among the 19 restricted books based on age, reading level parental permission etc.: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; Blubber by Judy Blume; Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Here’s the complete list of banned books in Texas: