Potter tops list of challenged books

  September 6, 2003 at 1:02 PM ET
  James     Wizard News (via Tulare Advance-Register)

Harry Potter leads a listopens in new window of the most challenged literature in America, drawing hundreds of complaints from almost exclusively religious sects or individuals this year. While the Harry Potter series is the most obvious example of a series whose right to be placed in a school or public library setting is debated, other books draw attempts of censorship from nearly as many sources.

The American Library Association-sponsored Banned Books Week, which will take take place on September 20-27, recounts past censorship and celebrates free thinking and human's capacity of intellectual freedom.

Freshman Charles Trujillo said he has read the entire Harry Potter series. He was in the school library reading "Interview With A Vampire" by Anne Rice.

"I had no problem with any of those [Harry Potter] books, and my parents didn't either," Trujillo said. "If somebody told me I couldn't read a book it would make me want to read it more."

Megan Alves and Jalisa Stevens are enrolled in Jill Sozinho's English 1B class. Both 14-year-olds said they enjoy reading. Both have read, and enjoyed, number 16 on the ALA's list of 100 most frequently challenged books: "Goosebumps" by Robert Lawrence Stine.

"I read [the books] a long time ago and I liked them," Stevens said. "The end of the stories always leaves you hanging and wanting to read more. As far as banning books because of sex or bad words, we hear grown-ups curse all the time, and they talk about sex, too."

The American Library Association displays another similar articleopens in new window on its websiteopens in new window, save for the inclusion of an estimate of the amount of challlenges directed toward children's books this year

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 515 reports of challenges last year, a 15 percent increase since 2001. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The majority of challenges are reported by public libraries, schools and school libraries. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each challenge reported, four or five remain unreported.

The "Ten Most Challenged Books of 2002" reflect a wide variety of themes. The books, in order of most frequently challenged are:

* Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, for its focus on wizardry and magic.

* Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for being sexually explicit, using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

* "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier (the "Most Challenged" book of 1998), for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

* "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, for sexual content, racism, offensive language, violence and being unsuited to age group.

* "Taming the Star Runner" by S.E. Hinton, for offensive language. "Captain Underpants" by Dav Pilkey, for insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority.

* "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, for racism, insensitivity and offensive language.

* "Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson, for offensive language, sexual content and Occult/Satanism.

* "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred D. Taylor, for insensitivity, racism and offensive language.

* "Julie of the Wolves" by Julie Craighead George, for sexual content, offensive language, violence and being unsuited to age group.

Off the list this year, but on the list for several years past, are the "Goosebumps" and "Fear Street" series, by R. L. Stine, which were challenged for being too frightening for young people and depicting occult or "Satanic" themes, "It's Perfectly Normal," a sex education book by Robie Harris, for being too explicit, especially for children, "Of Mice and Men," by John Steinbeck, for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group, "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger for offensive language and being unsuited to age group, "The Color Purple," by Alice Walker, for sexual content and offensive language, "Fallen Angels," by Walter Dean Myers, for offensive language and being unsuited to age group, and "Blood and Chocolate" by Annette Curtis Klause for being sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.


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