To ban or not to ban, that is the question

Published 10:22 pm Thursday, October 4, 2012

Connie Lewis’ Advanced Placement English class has mixed emotions about challenging and banning books. The Southside High School seniors will have the opportunity to explore the subject in depth this spring when they read a banned book and present an argument for or against the ban. (WDN Photo/ Mona Moore)

If some people had it their way, classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men” and “I Know why the Caged Bird Sings” would not be on high school reading lists.
Others would ban the Harry Potter series and would never allow a “Goosebumps” book on library shelves.
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks challenged and banned books then compiles a list of the “offensive” material.  Challenged books are those which a person or group has formally requested be removed from the school curriculum or library shelves. If the challenge is successful, the book is banned. Otherwise, it remains on the shelves.
In her 13 years in Beaufort County Schools, district library coordinator Michele Oros said she has never had a book challenged.
“We really haven’t had issues that have escalated to school board level,” she said.
Oros credits the districts policy on reading material. Parents may object to any instructional material (print, digital, audio-visual or electronic) and instructors will provide alternative material to accommodate that particular student.
Southside High School teacher Connie Lewis recalled one incident where a parent objected to “Death of a Salesman” being on the summer reading list. Another option was immediately offered.
Each spring, Lewis’ Advanced Placement class selects a book from the ALA list and writes a paper arguing why the book should or should not have been banned.
When students looked at the list Thursday, many were surprised to see so many familiar titles.
Not Macy Paramore.
“None of this surprises me,” she said. “All of these have a rational … one-sided opinion.”
Marlin Edwards said the list of challenged books offered viewpoints students might not otherwise have been exposed to.
“These books are like…. Giving kids a way to think outside the box,” she said.
Corey Watford said it wasn’t just a child’s creativity hanging in the balance.
“It’s even simpler than that. Books provoke questions,” she said. “I’m lucky to be blessed with a mother that talks to me. When I had a question from something I read, I asked her.”
Without the books that prompted the questions, Watford said she would not have learned as much.

Yasmen McDonald recalled her mother voicing an objection to her watching Harry Potter movies in daycare. She opposed the magic in the movie, but did not challenge the viewing. She asked that McDonald leave the room during the movie.
McDonald said she could understand her mother’s point of view and how many books end up being challenged by parents.
“No one understands a child better than their mom or dad,” she said.
Kyle White said that age should affect the decision.
“It’s a good thing parents shelter kids when they are in elementary and middle school,” he said. “Once in high school, they need to start backing off and letting them know what the world is like.”
Tony Guion did not see a point in parents interfering with their children’s reading material because they are exposed to similar issues every day.
“If you shield your child from these books, you’re actually making it worse,” Guion said.
Hikim Harper said he would not be the same person if he had not been allowed to read the Harry Potter series.
“I read all of them twice. These were the books that we grew up on,” Harper said. “These books are what made me who I am.”


Out of 326 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, here are the top 10 challenged books of 2011.

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism


Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

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: The American Library Association (