Friday, April 16, 2010

ALA's Most Challenged Books of 2009

Every spring, the American Library Association (ALA) releases a list of the year's most challenged books. Just released this week, the 2009 report has some classic mainstays, but some sort of surprising newbies:
Stephenie Meyer, the hottest author for young people since J.K. Rowling, has a new link to the creator of "Harry Potter": a place high on the list of books most complained about by parents and educators.

Meyer's multimillion-selling "Twilight" series was ranked No. 5 on the annual report of "challenged books" released Wednesday by the American Library Association. Meyer's stories of vampires and teen romance have been criticized for sexual content; a library association official also thinks that the "Twilight" series reflects general unease about supernatural stories.

"Vampire novels have been a target for years and the `Twilight' books are so immensely popular that a lot of the concerns people have had about vampires are focused on her books," says Barbara Jones, director of the association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Christian groups for years have protested the themes of wizardry in Rowling's books, which don't appear on the current top 10.

Topping the 2009 chart was Lauren Myracle's "IM" series, novels told through instant messages that have been criticized for nudity, language and drug references. Last year's No. 1 book, "And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is now No. 2, cited again for its story about two male penguins adopting a baby. Third was Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," for which the many reasons include drugs, suicide, homosexuality and being antifamily.

Also cited were such perennials as J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" (sexual content, language), Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" (language, racism), Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" (sexual content, language) and Robert Cormier's "The Chocolate War" (nudity, language, sexual content).

Read the whole Associated Press article HERE

This ALA report is compiled by taking all of the complaints each day--from newspapers and individuals--collected by the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), dropping them into a database, and then basically just seeing what pops out after 365 days. (Learn more about the OIF and how books are banned and challenged HERE.)

In 2009, 460 books were challenged--56 less than last year's number. Out of those 460, 81 books were banned and literally pulled off the shelves in public and school libraries around the country. The ALA claims though that 70-80 percent of complaints aren't even officially reported.

Honestly, I'm not shocked by that statistic. People have very strong opinions when it comes to what we let children read, but many of those people--and people in general, I'm learning--lack the initiative and proactivity to do anything about their beliefs.

I'm not one of those people, though. I'm neither a proponent of book censorship nor of passivity. I'm of the mind that parents are the only ones who should be able to "censor" what their children read--it's paBlockquotert of their job to teach and guide their kids in growing up, whether it's through frank conversation, books, film, etc. etc.

As such, while I think the annual ALA reports are important to be aware of for any reader, I support The Kids' Right to Read Project myself. The group is "a collaboration of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), which offers support, education, and advocacy to people facing book challenges or bans and engages local activists in promoting the freedom to read" (

Books can be excellent growth tools for kids--and adults--and controversial and thought-provoking books are perhaps the best ones of all.

So, rather than shying away from the books on the ALA's list, I think we should all go out and grab a copy!

1 comment:

  1. Why doesn't anyone ever mention the fact that the Twilight series promotes unhealthy romantic relationships? Edward is controlling and Bella is a needy pathetic mess. C'mon! Forget the vampire crap. Let's talk about how teen girls should stop relying on boys and men to determine their self worth!