Banned Books Webquest – Background Information

Banned Books Week is a yearly event sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Association of American Publishers. It is also endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress. These groups sponsor this week to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society, protected by The First Amendment.

Most books are banned for the following reasons: sex, profanity, and racism.


Other reasons are politics, non-traditional lifestyles or values, or religious content. Some books are banned or censored for a number of reasons.

Why do you think To Kill a Mockingbird has been censored?

In schools, the book banners believe that they are protecting children, but in many cases they want to control the expression of an idea that may be unpopular, offensive, or disagreeable. Book banners do not just express their own point of view but ask that materials be removed from the school’s curriculum or from the school library, and in effect force their point of view on others.

Levels of Censorship: When a book is challenged that means that someone has tried to restrict another person’s ability to choose what to read. The next book you will read in English 10H, Lord of the Flies, was challenged. Click here to find out why.

If, as a result of the challenge, the book is removed, it has been banned.

Sometimes, books are expurgated. This means that portions of the book are blacked out or deleted. Ironically, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, a book about censorship, was censored in this very specific way. Click here to find out about it.

Sometimes books are restricted to a certain age level or grade and students are required to have a permission slip in order to check it out.

Many of us think that book banning, book burning and censorship only happens in “other places,” but there have been a number of incidents in New York. In fact, one of the most famous Supreme Court Cases, Pico v. Island Trees (NY) involved book banning in Long Island, New York.  School board members removed 11 books from the library in the evening, after the librarian had left for the day.

South Orangetown Central School district has a library materials selection and adoption policy that includes a statement adapted from the American Library Association Standards for School Library Programs; the Library Bill of Rights, June 27, 1967, and the Freedom to Read Statement, June 25, 1953.

How can you create a Banned Book Display in the Library? Click here for the Task.