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Censorship & Banned Books Week

year-long companion to Banned Book Week displays

Why are books challenged?

Why are books challenged? Here's what the American library Association found in 2018:

Butler University's guide lists the most common reasons for book challenges 1990-2009 , and offers historical statistics on who was the challenger, and the type of library.

Why Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read granted by the  First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

It highlights the many debates and  legal struggles over these rights in the past. Those continue in the  present day when books are challenged at public and school libraries. In a Washington Post interview, James La Rue (American Library Association, Office of Intellectual Freedom) put it this way:

There are so many places like in rural communities where you say, "Well, the book isn’t banned. It’s still been published. It’s still available on Amazon. It’s still in a bookstore." But let’s say you’re a young gay kid, and you go to your library, and David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing has been removed, and so you don’t know that it’s there. You don’t have a credit card to get it from Amazon. You can’t hop in a car if you’re 14 years old and drive to a bookstore. So the ban is not a trivial thing. It’s a deliberate suppression of a viewpoint that has real consequences for people.

La Rue points out to parents who challenge books to protect their children “If I say, ‘I don’t want my child to read this,’ you have the right to do that. But when you try to remove it from the library, you’re saying that other people’s children don’t have the right to read it.”


Top 11 Most Challenged Books in 2018

The Top 11 Challenged Books of 2018 are:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character.
  2. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
    Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.
  3. Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple.
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.
  5. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide.
  7. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
    Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations.
  8. Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
    Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.
  9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint.
  10. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
    Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.
  11. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
    Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.


Challenging a library to remove a book from its shelves isn't the only way to censor information. Other forms of censorship (like economic censorship, access limits, or self-censorship) can be just as harmful, or worse. What do you think - if information never makes it into print, into the news, or onto a website, is that information censored?