Books challenged for penguins, sex

Banned Books Week came and passed somewhat uneventfully at AHS, as it always does. Aside from displays in our media center, there was little to bring the week to the attention of our student body. We are lucky to be in a school where book censorship isn’t an issue. “There has never been a book challenged while I’ve been here,” said Ms. Minion, Ames High’s media specialist. “There has only been one challenge in the district, as far as I know – it was before my time here.” Though the absence of censorship leads most of Ames High to take Banned Book Week for granted, our town’s tolerance is not universal throughout America. In Alabama, for example, Brookwood High School sophomore Lysa Harding has taken the novel Sandpiper from the school’s library and refuses to return it, saying it isn’t appropriate for high school students. Additionally, her grandmother has submitted a challenge to remove the book from the BHS library. According to the American Library Association, there were 546 formal book challenges across America last year. Out of the most controversial books of 2006, the most were challenged for having offensive language, being unsuited to the age of patrons of the library, sexual content, or homosexuality. Among the other top ten books, only two had been challenged for violence – just as two had been challenged for being “anti-family.” “We have most of [those books] in our collection,” Minion said. “We’ve never had a challenge, though. Ames as a whole is pretty open-minded, and having a university helps.” Minion herself does not feel that censoring any of the most challenged books would be necessary or desirable. “We’ve had lots of people check these out and like them. I don’t feel we should take any books off the shelves that students enjoy reading.” Of these books, the most challenged last year was And Tango Makes Three, a children’s picture book about penguins. The book tells a true story of two male penguins raising a baby penguin from the egg. We may have come a long way from Savonarola, but the fact that people are willing to ban such an innocent story shows that censorship is still alive and well in America, and we should appreciate the freedom we have in Ames.