text Freedom to Read Week, February 18 to 24 beside nine illustrated people each reading a book
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Banned Books and Why We Love Them

Thousands of books are challenged around the world every year for political, legal, religious, or moral reasons. And, sometimes they are removed from schools or libraries because some people consider them inappropriate. Every time a challenged book is removed from a shelf, it means that someone else is deciding what information or point of view you can access, explore, and question. This is what intellectual freedom is all about. The Canadian Federation of Library Association describes it as your right to have an opinion and to seek and receive information, including that which some individuals and groups consider unconventional, unpopular, or unacceptable.

As a library, intellectual freedom is one of our core values. We believe that providing a wide range of materials for people to read and learn from is key to democracy. How can we learn and grow if we can’t access books that stretch and challenge us? How can we empathize with different perspectives if we can’t access those points of view? We celebrate Freedom to Read Week during the last week of February to reinforce the value of intellectual freedom.  

Banning Books for Young Adults

School-based book bans have been making headlines lately. Did you know that many children's and young adult (YA) books end up on banned lists? This tactic is sometimes used to limit what youth can access and learn to shape their views to match those of the people in power.

Here are some popular YA novels you may not have known were banned or challenged and their reasons why.

The Poet X

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X is about Xiomara Batista who feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. It is the recipient of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Pura Belpre Award, among several others. Despite this long list of accolades, this book has been challenged for discussing race, gender, and sexuality.

Borrow The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 

book cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This coming-of-age novel about Charlie, a shy, intelligent and socially awkward wallflower has been placed on the American Library Association (ALA) Most Banned Book List for its depiction of sexual abuse, LGBTQIA+ content, drug use, profanity, and sexually explicit scenes. It was first banned in 2003 by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Fairfax, Virginia. It was most recently challenged in Houston. The board of trustees for the Conroe Independent School District in Texas decided the novel would be removed from the classroom curriculum but remain in the school libraries.

Borrow The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

The Giver by Lois Lowry 

book cover of The Giver by Lois Lowry

Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. The Giver has won the 1994 Regina Medal and the 1996 William Allen White Award. It also has been featured on ALA’s "Best Books for Young Adults" and was adapted into a film in 2014. Since its publication in 1993, this book has undergone many challenges across the United States for discussing topics including infanticide, euthanasia, sexuality, and suicide. Lois Lowry responded to these challenges by saying "The world portrayed in The Giver is a world where choice has been taken away. It is a frightening world. Let's work hard to keep it from truly happening."

Borrow The Giver by Lois Lowry 

Eleanor & Park

book cover of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. This New York Times bestseller is listed as one of ALA's Top Ten Challenged Books due to parental complaints of offensive language. The most spoken-about challenge took place in 2013 at Minnesota Anoka High School. Parents challenged this book, calling it "vile profanity" and citing 227 uses of profanity.

Borrow Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Hate U Give

book cover of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This award-winning book is about a young teen named Starr who witnesses her friend's death at the hands of a police officer. When the police and local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died, Starr must make the difficult decision to use her voice. The Hate U Give has been widely banned in schools across the United States due to its depictions of racism and anti-police views. 

Borrow The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Did any of these books surprise you?

Celebrate Freedom to Read

During Freedom to Read Week, we want to encourage people to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To celebrate, we encourage you to visit any of our locations to borrow and read a banned or challenged book. Check out some of our in-branch displays and start a conversation with your families and friends!

Take a look at these BPL Staff Pick Booklists

AzkaBANNED: Challenged or Banned Children's Fantasy Books      
BPL's List of 25 Challenged Children's Books      
BPL's List of 30 Challenged Teen Books      
Intellectual Freedom & Censorship