Harry Potter Among 100 Most Challenged Books in Banned Books Week List

Posted on September 25, 2000

The American Library Association has published a list of the most 100 most frequently challenged books for Banned Books Week. The Harry Potter series made the list at #48. The list is published by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom as part of Banned Books Week (September 23-30), which annually celebrates the freedom to read.

Topping the list is Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz, accused of ``being too scary'' and ``unsuited to age group,'' followed by Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite, accused of ``promoting homosexuality as a normal lifestyle.'' The rest of the 10 most frequently challenged books of the decade, in order, were: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (3), The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Forever by Judy Blume, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (10).

Other well-known books on the list include: The Giver by Lois Lowry (11), It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris (13), Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine (15), The Color Purple by Alice Walker (17), Sex by Madonna (18), A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (23), To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (40), Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling (48), Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (54) and Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya (78).

The top 100 list was compiled from 5,718 challenges to library materials reported to or recorded by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom from 1990-1999. A ``challenge'' is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness. Seventy-one percent of the challenges in the '90s decade were to materials in schools or school libraries; another 26 percent were to materials in public libraries. Nearly 60 percent of challenges were brought by parents, 16 percent by library patrons and 10 percent by administrators.

In 1995, the number of reported challenges reached a high of 762 challenges, but by 1999 had declined to 472. This decline is likely due to an increased focus away from books to the Internet -- the newest medium in the library -- according to Judith Krug, the office's director. Despite this decline, Krug says, ``Nobody should be complacent in thinking that books are safe from censorship attempts. Research shows that reported challenges represent only 20 to 25 percent of all challenges made. The fact that every challenge is an attempt to make ideas inaccessible to their intended audience is of even greater concern than the numbers.''

The most often cited reason for requesting that a book be removed from the library or curriculum is that the book is ``sexually explicit'' (1,446 challenges). Other reasons for challenges included ``offensive language'' (1,262 challenges), ``unsuited to age group'' (1,167 challenges), ``occult theme or promoting the occult or Satanism'' (773 challenges), ``violent'' (630 challenges), homosexual theme or ``promoting homosexuality'' (497 challenges), ``promoting a religious viewpoint'' (397 challenges), ``nudity'' (297 challenges), ``racism'' (245 challenges), ``sex education'' (217 challenges) and ``anti-family'' (193 challenges).

Observed since 1981, Banned Books Week is sponsored by the ALA, American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, American Society of Journalists and Authors, and National Association of College Stores. It is also endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. This year's Banned Books Weeks theme is "Fish in the River of Knowledge."