November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

2015 Banned Books Week to Focus on YA Lit

BBW-logoThis year’s Banned Books Week (BBW, September 27 to October 3) will celebrate books written for teens, the BBW National Committee announced on April 22. This annual event to raise awareness about the freedom to read has long been a staple in libraries, schools, and bookstores, especially those serving young adults.

YA literature is an often-challenged category. The American Library Association (ALA) announced the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2014 last week, and the majority of them were books for teens. The six YA titles on the list include Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award–winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007), which took the first spot, and Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel Drama (Scholastic, 2012).

Roundtable: Why all the Drama about ‘Drama’?“Young Adult books are challenged more frequently than any other type of book,” says Judith Platt, chair of the national committee. “These are the books that speak most immediately to young people, dealing with many of the difficult issues that arise in their own lives, or in the lives of their friends. These are the books that give young readers the ability to safely explore the sometimes scary real world.”

Librarians are often caught in the middle of book bans and challenges, especially because they are often the ones who report when a book is in danger of being removed from the shelves. “Good Comics 4 Kids” blogger and teen librarian Robin Brenner shed some light on the difference between a challenge and a ban in a recent roundtable discussion about middle school favorite Drama’s frequently challenged status:

“The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom annually tracks the formal challenges to titles in library collections (in public libraries, in schools, wherever the library may be). In terms of what challenges are, as the ALA press release states, ‘A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.’

So, this is not a person walking up to a librarian and questioning a title’s appropriateness, but instead an instance of someone putting in writing their objections to a title and requesting its restriction (for example, moving it to closed shelves) or removal from a collection entirely. The Office of Intellectual Freedom relies on libraries to report challenges to them, using a confidential form.

Librarians and book lovers can promote the freedom to read by encouraging read-outs, displays, and community activities that raise awareness of censorship. BannedBooksWeek.org is a hub for information about how individuals and institutions can get involved. Last year, tens of thousands of people participated in BBW online, posting more than 500 videos in a virtual read-out. Live events also took place in bookstores, libraries, schools, and universities across the country.

There are many more ways that libraries can participate in the 2015, from assembling banned book displays to banned books trading cards.

“BBW is a call to action, to remind everyone that young people need to be allowed the freedom to read widely, to read books that are relevant for them, and to be able to make their own reading choices,” says Platt.

See also:

SLJ’s Resources On Banned Books and Censorship
An Informal Study: Do Book Challenges Suppress Diversity?
Comics Censorship, from ‘Gay’ Batman to Sendak’s Mickey
Banned Books Week: Celebrate the Right to Read
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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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