Even before the invention of the Gutenberg press in 1450, there have been books throughout the ages that inspired controversy. With Banned Books Week coming up next week, it is important to fully understand how banned books are defined.
When a book is banned, the material has been removed from a curriculum and/or library in which a particular age group might have access. This process can be done on a library–by-library basis; therefore, the book is not banned forever. Libraries must follow guidelines before completely removing the book from their system, and the book must have violated what is called “The Miller Test.”
This test was established in a legal case (Miller v. California) and created a three-point test for obscenity: the material must appeal to prurient interests when taken as a whole; involve patently offensive sexual conduct; and/or contain no literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. If one of these three criteria were met, the book could then be considered a challenged book. Censorship of books will always be an uphill battle and probably will never reach a definitive end.
Fortunately, the process of banning books has become a lot harder to do. Many organizations, such as the American Library Association and and OCLC, work hard to lessen the numbers of books slated for censorship. Today the most censored genre of books continues to be juvenile literature. The issue is mainly pressed by parents, but it is ultimately up to schools and libraries to determine which books remain on the shelves.
Some of the most renowned works of all time have fallen victim to the banned books list at one time or another. Some are not what you may expect. For example, titles like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Wizard of Oz, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and even Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, which now are a staple in the school systems, were at one time considered too scandalous or inappropriate for children.
For more information on banned books, or to view some of books that are banned/challenged, visit http://www.ala.org/bbooks/.