Memorial to Atticus Finch of "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the 1903 Old Courthouse Museum, Monroeville, Alabama (Library of Congress)

A day late and a dollar short but still in time for some fun — it’s Banned Book Week!

Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities. Click here to see a map of book bans and challenges in the US from 2007 to 2009. People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and they protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals. Their targets range from books that explore contemporary issues and controversies to classic and beloved works of American literature.

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee is a perennial in the list of top ten banned books in the United States but was nominated by British Librarians in 2008 as “the book that everyone should read.” Complaints against it being required reading in schools come mostly from African-Americans who are offended by the racial slurs. I think this is unfortunate because the novel has the potential to be a terrific learning opportunity from both a historical and a moral perspective.

Visit the American Library Association for more information.