Banned Books Week officials report less censorship

— As the American Library Assn. marks its 21st annual Banned Books Week, the organization is running low on actual bans to report.

The number of times a book was removed from school reading lists or libraries dropped to an estimated 20-25 last year, far below the estimated 200 or higher of the early 1980s, when the ALA started its program.

"A lot of people now know that unless they need to speak up and join in the fray, otherwise, someone else will control what they have access to," Judith Krug, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, said Tuesday.

"And the Internet has become more important for people who used to complain about books in schools. I think that's where a lot of their energies are going," she said.

Every year, the ALA dedicates a week to highlighting works challenged as inappropriate for schools and libraries. The ALA defines a "challenge" as a formal, written complaint filed (usually by a parent) with a library or school.

The ALA reported 448 challenges in 2001, compared to more than 900 in 1981. Krug says for every complaint the ALA learns about, there are likely four or five others.

The books most often criticized have varied little in recent years. The Harry Potter series, which some Christians have attacked for its themes of wizardry and magic, tops this year's list. Also included are such longtime targets as J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," both cited for "offensive language," and Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," for language, racism and sexual content.

Banned Books Week ends Saturday.

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