• Read to Them

Ban Those Books - But Why?

by Kayla Aldrich, Read to Them staff


Hello, all, and happy Wednesday! As Amy Anne wades deeper into her efforts to fight censorship and keep her favorite books from being banned at her school, we thought it might be helpful to delve further into the idea of banned books. Enjoy!

What is a Banned Book?

A banned book is a text that’s removed entirely from a classroom or school library. In extreme cases, it can even lead to the book being taken out of circulation on a national scale. Crazy, right?

It’s important to note that sometimes books are merely challenged. That means that someone, at one point or another, had believed the book in question should be removed from a classroom or a school library. In most cases books are only challenged, not banned.


Why Ban Books?

The concept of banning books is not new. In fact, the first instance of book banning in the US happened all the way back in 1650! However, like parents at Amy Anne’s school, there has been an increase in books challenged for their content and themes. But why?

According to the American Library Association, there are over twenty reasons cited in the call to censor books. Those top three reasons include: explicit material, offensive language, and even material “unsuited to any age group” at all.

But just because one person or group thinks a book should be banned, does that mean no one should have access to these books?

Examples of Banned Books

Beyond the titles mentioned in Ban This Book, here are books that, at one point or another, have been challenged or even out-right banned:

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

  • Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

  • Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

  • The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

  • The Witches by Roald Dahl


But the call to ban books doesn’t stop with titles you might know. This a small sampling of banned titles for middle and high school readers:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

  • 1984 by George Orwell

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  • Looking for Alaska by John Green

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Did you spot any of your favorite reads on these lists? If you’re wondering why a particular title might have been challenged consider this:

There’s a good chance you’ve read a book that made you scared or uncomfortable. More than likely, you’ve encountered bad words in your books and you might’ve taken offense to this kind of language. However, that doesn’t mean everyone in your class would share the same opinion, because not everyone is going to like the same books, and that’s okay!

Even if you don’t like a book - or even if you do!- it’s important to have discussions about why there are calls to ban certain books. Try to consider why authors might write about topics that are controversial, and what they’re aiming to accomplish with their stories and themes.

Be respectful of others’ thoughts and opinions when you have these discussions. By sharing your ideas and asking questions, you’re actively engaging with the text and you’re becoming a better scholar! And remember: you have the freedom to decide what you do and don’t want to read, but you don’t get to choose for anyone else.

If you’re reading along with us, be sure to tag us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Be well, all, and until we meet again— be kind and happy reading!