‘Banned Books’ Week Brings Awareness to Controversial Books

DES MOINES, Iowa—“Banned Books” Week brings awareness to books that may be challenged or banned across the country due to the context.

According to Communications Director at American Civil Liberty Unions Veronica Fowler, the books are banned or challenged, because people believe the books are not appropriate, vulgar, violent, etc.

Fowler said when a book is “challenged”, it is up for discussion to see the teaching value of the book.

Fowler said children can see and read stories on the internet that are far more inappropriate.

“Any child with internet access, is going to get something a lot racier than any of the content these books that have been challenged. I think it is because it is in front of people’s faces. They don’t always know what is going on in social media, but they can see what books their kids are bringing home,” Fowler said.

“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck was challenged in 2007 in Newton, because of concerns about profanity.

“And Tango Makes” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s was challenged in 2008 at the elementary school library in Ankeny. Parents believed the book promoted homosexuality.

“The Notebook Girls: Four Friends, One Diary, Real Life” by Julia Baskin, Lindsey Newman, Sophie Pollitt-Cohen and Courtney Toombs' was challenged from the young adult nonfiction section at Waukee Public Library in 2011. The challenge came from complaints of foul language.

Des Moines Public Schools Secondary English/Language Arts Coordinator Jeremy Schwennen said their teachers carefully choose each book taught in the classroom.

“From an instructional perspective, we do not maintain a list of banned or off-limit books. Our teachers work hard to match novels to the skills we develop in our English classrooms while also balancing between contemporary selections and classic literature from around the world. Our teachers think carefully about appropriateness of the text to their audience, and there are, of course, books we would not teach to particularly young students because of themes or content, but those books may still be considered for use with older students. We have long maintained a practice of allowing students and families to opt out of books to which they have objections, but we have not removed a book from consideration for teaching in recent years,” Schwennen said.

Johnston Schools Communication Director Laura Sprague said, "We also do not have a list of banned books or have fielded recent complaints regarding instructional materials."

Fowler said she encourages people to read challenged or banned books, because it is educational.

“Totally encouraged people to read banned books. Check out those ideas that some people find so dangerous. Educate yourself. Again, it is the fundamentals of society that free societies read freely. Censorship has no place in our public schools and in our public schools and our public libraries,” Fowler said.

Challenged Books in Iowa this year include:

  • “And Tango Makes Three” by John Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • “Becoming Sister Wives” by Kody Brown
  • “Buster’s Sugartime” by Marc Brown
  • “Fired: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed” by Annabelle Gurwitch
  • “Hoops” by Robert Burleigh
  • “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
  • “It’s a Book” by Lane Smith
  • “Playing without the Ball” by Rich Wallace
  • “Second Helpings” by Megan McCafferty
  • “Sloppy Firsts” by Megan McCafferty
  • “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
  • “The Notebook Girls” by Julia Baskin
  • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
  • “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
  • “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
  • “Vampires, Werewolves & Zombies” by Lisa Regan
  • “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” by Peter Hedges

The week is sponsored by ACLU and the Iowa Library of Association.