National Library Week and the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016

This is #NationalLibraryWeek, the week we celebrate those “temples of public education and freedom of thought,” as photographer of “America’s Most Beautiful Libraries,” Thomas R. Schiff calls them.

On the first day of this Week, the American Library Association announces the Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2016.

Let’s look at this Top Ten List and the commonalities about the challenged books side-by-side with the idea of libraries as “temples of public education and freedom of thought.” According to the list, all but Eleanor & Park and Little Bill were challenged for sexual explicitness—Eleanor & Park was challenged for offensive language and Little Bill was challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author. Four of the challenged books on the list have been challenged for their LGBTQ content/themes. Six of the books are national award winners. NCTE has participated in efforts to defend five of the books.

How can a library be a “temple[s] of public education and freedom of thought” if its books, like these, are removed or kept away from young people because someone finds them offensive? How can children open their minds through books and learn, if books are taken off the library shelves?

I don’t think they can. NCTE doesn’t think they can.

If you are experiencing a challenge to a book or other instructional material, please let the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center know.  We are here to help as you see fit.

By the way, today we’re celebrating book mobiles  and nothing could represent the spirit of a library as a “temple[]s of public education and freedom of thought” than  Roberto Murillo Martin Gomez’s Columbian book mobile.



About Millie Davis

Millie Davis is Senior Developer for Affiliates, and Director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition she works on NCTE’s communications efforts, particularly on social media. Millie's passion is working with literacy teachers across the country and beyond whose passion for their students and their students' learning is their reason for going to work each day.

4 thoughts on “National Library Week and the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016

  1. I believe that it is extremely important to expose our children to the changes that society is going through. Every day it seems that we are trying more and more to shield children from the changes that society is experiencing, we want them to be in this all perfect bubble where they live in this sheltered and secure world where no one is different, there are no struggles and everyone is happy. But the real world is not like that, children are growing up faster and faster everyday and we need to arm them with knowledge, with the ability to think and understand and respect others. Libraries are the places where ALL books should be allowed, where knowledge and the freedom to express ideas is not only allowed but encouraged. No book should be challenged, and if they indeed challenge your points of views maybe they are trying to expand your view of the world and society. And that is exactly what they are meant to do.

  2. Students should have free access to any books within reason. Letting
    them experience what is happening in the world is critically important
    to how they view it. If we try to shelter our students from the world, they
    will become blind to it. For this reason, sharing “banned” books in school
    and talking about the subjects they address isn’t harmful, but helpful
    to students. The only thing served in removing relevant literature by
    banning books is a disservice to our students and their worldly education.

  3. I am currently placed at a school that has a banned books class. I do believe that our children need exposure to challenges that are in our society. I also believe that some children aren’t mature enough to handle that exposure quite yet. I know what some are thinking “will they ever be ready for that kind of raw exposure?” “Don’t we need to expose our children to these things to get them ready for the ‘real’ world?”

    I do think that society sometimes shields children too much. I have read Eleanor and Park, I personally don’t think it needs to be a topic of discussion for banned books.

  4. I find banning books similar to Fahrenheit 451. I fear that when we take away ANY book, there is a missed opportunity for learning and gaining new experiences. Regardless of the subject matter, I strongly believe that each book has a purpose for a reader; a reader’s purpose of understanding may be different than that in which the author intentionally creates, but it is still educational and purposeful for the reader which is most important! To me, books are similar to the idea that all are equal in value and importance; why should we treat our books differently than we do people?

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