Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Course takes another look at banned books

Students in English Associate Professor Scott Howard’s Censorship, Free Speech and Literature course will use banned books this fall to take a timely look at issues of intellectual freedom. 

Howard’s students will interact with the literature and with advocates of Banned Books Week, Sept. 23–30. Each student will select a book from the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of currently challenged books in the U.S. They will give a presentation and facilitate a discussion on the work. 

Students will also visit the Denver Public Library, Tattered Cover Book Store and an independent publisher. 

Howard hopes his students address the question: If the freedom to read is worth defending, is the freedom to censor worth defending? 

“The two are deeply connected,” he says. “You can’t have one without the other.” 

Of the 2,614 recorded challenges between 2000 and 2004, 1,526 came from parents. So it’s not surprising the list of 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990–2000 included numerous works of young-adult literature. 

Challenged books you or your children probably read before turning 18 include: 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (No. 5) 
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (No. 7) 
Blubber by Judy Blume (No. 32) 
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (No. 56) 
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford (No. 88) 

ALA research suggests that for each reported challenge, as many as four or five go unreported. 

This article originally appeared in The Source, September 2006.

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