You Can't Read That

ALA says "The Kite Runner" one of the most challeneged titles in schools

Most of us think of book banning as a crusty old piece of the past, but guess again.

The Chicago-based American Library Association unveiled a total of 513 book challenges from last year.

The ALA said this week that one of the most challenged books of 2008 was "The Kite Runner."

The novel about friendship and betrayal between two Afghan boys was among the releases most likely to inspire complaints last year from parents and educators, the ALA said. The betrayal comes when one of the boys turns his back on the other as the second boy is being raped by a teen.

A parent in Champaign, Ill., and a school board official in Morganton, N.C., were among those who found the sexual content of the best-seller off limits.

For the third year in a row, the most challenged book was "And Tango Makes Three," Justin Richardson's and Peter Parnell's award-winning picture story about two male penguins who become parents. "Tango" was cited for being anti-family, pro-gay and anti-religion.

Also high on the list were Philip Pullman's "Dark Materials" trilogy (complaints for being violent and anti-religious), Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girls" series (language, sexually explicit), Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories" (violence, occultism) and Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (drugs, suicide, nudity, language).

Last fall, students at a Portage, Ind. school fought a move by conservative parents to ban the latter title, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Opponents of the book said the sex and language in the book made it unsuitable for the high school audience. Despite the students' efforts, the school stuck with its decision to ban the book.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press published a story out of Council Bluff, Iowa, in which a group of parents was challenging the inclusion of the novel "Hoops" in its schools' curriculum.

"Hoops" is the story of a high school basketball player in Harlem who is befriended by a former professional player whose career was destroyed by scandal.

Surprising titles that were, at one time, banned in schools include Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn", "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee, and  "Catcher in the Rye," written by J. D. Salinger.   

On the opposite side of the issue, the ALA's recently deceased founder, Judith Krug, started "Banned Book Week" in 1982. Every fall a week set aside dedicated to the First Amendment and a celebration of "the freedom to read."

This year's "Banned Book Week" will be Sept. 26–Oct. 3, 2009. Maybe then students motivated to read material of their own choosing can put away the Wii and visit the library, instead.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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