‘Banned Books Week’ continues through Oct. 3
WOOD RIVER — Since 1982 librarians around the country have encouraged people to read and talk about the “bad” books.
This week is no exception, as “Banned Book Week” runs through Oct. 3.
Sometimes profane, or sexual, or contrary to accepted ideas, banned and challenged books range from what are now considered literary masterpieces to children’s books.
Like many libraries, the Wood River Library has a display honoring those books. Actually, two displays — one in the adult section and another in the children’s section.
“It’s important because we here at Wood River Library, and really libraries everywhere, believe it should be your choice what to read,” said Wood River Library Circulation Clerk Amy Gibbons. “We do not censor; we do not pull books that have been banned or challenged or anything like that. We like to keep all of them in the collection.”
The adult display included Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” one of the “Harry Potter” series books, and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”
Top 10 banned and challenged books of 2019
1. George by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”
2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning
4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”
5. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”
7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”
8. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”
9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals
10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content
Source: American Library Association
She said they have occasionally received a complaint about a book, but she couldn’t recall anyone trying to get one banned.
“Most of the complaints come from parents of younger children,” according to Gibbons. “Maybe their kid has brought something home from school or they read something they didn’t agree with.
“We always say ‘It’s not our job to decide what your child reads,’” she added. “If you don’t want your child to read this, that is your prerogative, but we will always provide whatever books we have here.”
Gibbons said a more appropriate question would be whether a book is age appropriate. While that can include content, it is also about the difficulty in comprehension.
“In our children’s section, all of our books are marked with an accelerated reading level,” she said. “We encourage children to read within their age limit. Not for content necessarily, but it can get very frustrating if they are picking out eighth grade books in the first grade.”
That doesn’t mean content can’t be an issue.
“We have adult cards and juvenile cards,” she said. “If a child comes in with a juvenile card and is obviously very young and comes up with ‘The Exorcist, I’m probably going to say ‘Does mom know you’re reading this, maybe we should call and check this out.’”
As part of the week, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom announced the “Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books” for the past decade.
Titles on the list range from a superhero in his underpants to a number of what are today considered “classic” pieces of literature.
According to the American Library Association, the list includes books challenged for a variety of reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, sexual references, religious viewpoints, content that addresses racism and police brutality, and profanity.
“Although the reasons differ, the censorship of literature in libraries share a common result: the violation of our First Amendment rights,” according to the group’s website.
The top five were “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie; “Captain Underpants” (series) by Dav Pilkey; “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher; “Looking for Alaska” by John Green; and “George” by Alex Gino.
The entire list can been viewed at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/decade2019, or visit https://bannedbooksweek.org/.