What is Banned Books Week anyway? “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information.” *
To this day, “don’t ever laugh as a hearse goes by for you may be the next to die…” still dances in my brain at random moments. Having grown up in a funeral home, I knew this held no validity but still felt that thrill of the forbidden, the unknown. Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark was a staple in my and my family’s collective experience during childhood, and may also be the reason we’re all extremely morbid adults. Who knows?
The American Library Association conducted a study from 1990-1999** of the most commonly challenged books–guess who was #1 for a decade?
Why the most frequent challenges? My guess is that Schwartz’s lighthearted treatment towards death and all that nitty-gritty, such as rot (specifically humans), worms, corpses, et al, commonly introduced to younger audiences is a lot for the general public to welcome, especially given our pervasive avoidance of the topic of death. More specifically, according to the Intellectual Freedom Blog via The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association*** by way of the Banned Books Resource Guide, the reasons are commonly cited as:
- “too scary and violent”
- “too morbid for children”
- “shows the dark side of religion through the occult, the devil, and satanism”
- “unrealistic view of death”
- “cause children to fear the dark”
- “cause children to have nightmares”
You know what? All of the above is true! The stories are morbid, they do discuss death, and who didn’t fear the dark as a child? Luckily, parents have the choice as to whether or not to allow their small children to read them, but do not have the right to make that decision for everyone else who patronizes their local library.