Banned Books Week Promotes "Freedom to Read" Anything
Special Report - September 30, 2008
This week, September 27-October 4, libraries and bookstores across the United States will be promoting “Banned Books Week 2008,” an annual event promoting the “freedom to read” at libraries nationwide. Now in its 27th year, “Banned Books Week” is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), along with the American Bookseller’s Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Described by the ALA as a “celebration of the freedom to read,” the week-long event is really about defending the “right” of libraries to stock sexually explicit, profane and other controversial books, and the “rights” of adults and children to read these books. In 2007, the ALA received over 400 reports from libraries about book challenges (defined as “a formal written complaint requesting that a book be removed from library shelves or a school curriculum”). According to the ALA, “sex, profanity, and racism remain the top categories” of book challenges, with most challenges “motivated by a desire to protect children.”
According to the ALA, the most-challenged book in America in 2007 and 2006 was And Tango Makes Three, a pro-homosexual children’s book written by Dr. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. The book is based on the true story of “Roy” and “Silo,” two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo, who, with the help of their zookeeper, hatched an adopted egg and raised a baby penguin named, “Tango.” According to the book, “Tango was the first penguin at the zoo to have two daddies.” The book presents a romantic view of Roy and Silo’s seven-year relationship, describing them as “in love” and still together today. However, in 2005, Roy and Silo split up when Silo met a female penguin named “Scrappy” and chose her for his mate. Challenges to the book were reported in eight states, including North Carolina. In December 2006, And Tango Makes Three was temporarily removed from the shelves of four elementary school libraries in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system by the superintendent of schools, after several parents and County Commissioner Bill James complained about its pro-homosexual content. The book was later returned.
As part of its promotion of “Banned Books Week,” the ALA urges citizens, including children, to “read a banned book.” In addition to And Tango Makes Three, other books on the ALA’s most challenged list in 2007 include: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, and It’s Perfectly Normal, a graphic sex education book aimed at children as young as age 10 that features illustrations of nude children, along with explicit discussions of various sexual behaviors.
In North Carolina, some universities are hosting “Banned Books Week” events, and several bookstores and public libraries are also involved in promoting the event either through displays and/or readings that feature challenged books. In addition to checking with your local library about their plans this week, be sure to check with the librarian at your child’s school to find out whether the library plans to promote “Banned Books Week.”
“Reading is certainly worth celebrating, and libraries play an important role in preserving the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, including the right to read the ideas of others,” said Matt Lytle, director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “But the American Library Association takes the freedom to read to the extreme when it defends children’s books that promote homosexuality and books that feature profanity or obscene content. Free speech includes the freedom to speak out against materials that contain inappropriate content or that threaten the innocence of childhood, and book challenges are an important part of this right. Instead of complaining about so-called ‘censorship,’ the ALA and its allies should be defending the rights of parents and other citizens to raise questions about the content of books, particularly books that are available at the children’s library or at school.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.