Kids' Book Censorship: The Who and Why

Four Girls and Boys Looking at the Same Textbook in a Classroom at Primary School
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Challenges and Book Censorship Attempts Are Ongoing

Many people think that book censorship, challenges and book banning are things that happened in the distant past. That is certainly not the case as you'll see from my latest Banned Books Report on book censorship. You may also remember all of the controversy about the Harry Potter books in the early 2000s.

Why Do People Want to Ban Books?

When people challenge books it is generally out of a concern that the contents of the book will be harmful to the reader.

According to the ALA, there are four motivating factors:

  • Family Values
  • Religion
  • Political Views
  • Minority Rights.

The age level for which a book is intended does not guarantee that someone won't try to censor it. Though the emphasis seems to be on challenges to children's and young adult (YA) books some years more than others, attempts are also continually mounted to restrict access to certain adult books, often books that are taught in high school. Most complaints are made by parents and are directed to public libraries and schools.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The Fight Against Book Censorship

When the Harry Potter books came under attack, a number of organizations joined together to establish Muggles for Harry Potter, which became known as kidSPEAK and focused on being a voice for kids in fighting censorship in general. KidSPEAK stressed, "Kids have First Amendment rights—and kidSPEAK helps kids fight for them!" However, that organization no longer exists.

For a good list of organizations that are dedicated to fighting book censorship, just take a look at the list of sponsoring organizations in my article about Banned Books Week. There are more than a dozen sponsors, including the American Library Association, National Council of Teachers of English, American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Association of American Publishers.

Parents Against Bad Books in Schools

PABBIS (Parents Against Bad Books in Schools), is just one of a number of parent groups around the country challenging children's and young adult books in classroom teaching, and in school and public libraries. These parents go beyond wanting to restrict access to certain books for their own children; they seek to restrict access for other parents' children as well in one of two ways: either by getting one or more books removed from the library shelves or having access to the books restricted in some way.

What Do You Think?

According to article Public Libraries and Intellectual Freedom on the American Library Association Web site, while it is important and appropriate for parents to oversee their children's reading and media exposure, and the library has many resources, including booklists, to assist them, it is not appropriate for the library to serve in loco parentis, making judgement calls appropriate for parents in terms of what their children do and do not have access to rather than serving in their capacity as librarians.

For More Information About Book Banning and Kids' Books

See All About Book Banning and Children's Books for my directory of articles about book censorship to learn more about challenges, controversy, banned books and their authors, book burning, frequently challenged books in the 21st century and more.

About.com Secondary Education Expert Melissa Kelly addresses the issue in her article Censorship and Book Banning in America about the controversy surrounding the teaching of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in an 11th Grade American Literature class.

Read What Is a Banned Book? and How to Save a Book From Banning by Esther Lombardi, About.com Classic Literature Expert, to learn how you can prevent book censorship.