What types of books are most subject to censorship?

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Many books have been subject to censorship, although most are targeted for (a) vulgar or sexually explicit language; (b) “racist” language; (c) gay and lesbian themes; and/or (d) discussions of witchcraft and the occult.

The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom keeps track of efforts to censor books and has published a list, “The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.” Books new and old make up the list, from the 19th-century classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the critically acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to the current-day best-selling Harry Potter series.

Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings receives complaints for a rape scene and for being perceived by some as “anti-white.” Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn has been subject to censorship for language deemed demeaning to African-Americans. J.K. Rowling's hugely popular Harry Potter series draws the ire of some who say it celebrates witchcraft.

School districts should develop policies on how to handle challenges to books, and how to ensure that decisions regarding removal of books from the library or the curriculum respect the Constitution and reflect sound educational policy. School officials must also ensure that a book is not removed simply because a concerned parent or special-interest group dislikes its content.