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Banned Books Week Starts, Encourages Reading of Prohibited Materials

By David Ogul   |   Monday, 23 Sep 2013 04:55 PM

Banned Books Week began Monday, with librarians across the country bringing attention to titles that have been challenged or kept off the shelves because of their content.

Among the most challenged titles of 2012: "Captain Underpants" by Dav Pilkey (offensive language, unsuited for age group); "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini (homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit); and "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E. L. James (offensive language, sexually explicit), according to BannedBooksWeek.org.

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Classics that have been ordered out of schools or off shelves in the past include the John Steinbeck classic "Of Mice and Men" and "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. Other titles are "The Great Gatsby," "Ulysses," "The Grapes of Wrath," and "The Catcher in the Rye."

Time noted that some schools in California banned the Merriam-Webster dictionary because of complaints that it defined oral sex.

Banned Books Week began in 1982 in response to what organizers said was a “sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982.”

The American Library Association on its website says “a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.”

The Huffington Post reported that Alabama state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw recently called for the removal of Tony Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," from from libraries and the 11th grade Common Core reading list. The book won a Pulitzer Prize. Holtzclaw called the work “highly objectionable” and said it has “no value or purpose.”

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