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					                                     Banning Books
                     Excerpted from Writing Magazine 2/3-2001


       Here in the United States, where freedom of the press is a fundamental right,
censorship still occurs. Public schools and libraries are often pressured to ban books.
Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, a novel about burning books that has been
censored itself, comments that “there is more than one way to burn a book. And the
world is full of people running about with lit matches.”

Challenged vs. Banned Books
         What‟s the difference between book challenging and book banning? The
American Library Association (ALA) explains: A challenge is a formal, written
complaint filed with a library or school about a book‟s content or appropriateness. A ban
is the removal of a book from library, school, or even bookstore shelves. Many books are
challenged-almost 6,000 books from 1990 to 1999-but not all challenged books end up
being banned.
         Judy Blume is a popular author of children‟s books, including Are You There,
God? It’s Me Margaret and Tiger Eyes. Challenges to these and other books she wrote
stunned Blume.
         “I had letters from angry parents accusing me of ruining Christmas because of a
chapter in Superfudge called „Santa Who?‟” she says. “Some sent lists showing me
how easily I could have substituted one word for another…A teacher wrote to say she
blacked out offending words and passages with a felt-tip marker. Perhaps most shocking
of all was a letter from a nine-year-old addressed to Jewdy Blume telling me I had no
right to write about Jewish angels in Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself.”
         The effect of this “climate of censorship” on her work is “chilling” says Blume.
“It‟s easy to become discouraged, to second-guess everything you write…”

Who and Why
Who challenges books? Why do they do it?
        According to the ALA, during the 1990‟s, parents made 60 percent of the
challenges. Sixteen percent were made by library patrons. Ten percent were made by
administrators.
        Books are challenged because people feel they contain vulgar language, express
disrespect for parents and family, include graphic violence, or glorify “evil.” The
challenges say the books must be removed to ensure that children are not corrupted by
them.
        “Parents and others who complain often do so out of deep beliefs and convictions,
and in an effort to „protect‟ young people from influences they believe are harmful,” says
Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. But she
does not agree that books have harmful effects on young readers. “I believe that reading
about something is a safe way to explore and understand it,” she says.




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Read the selection. Explain the author’s purpose. Use specific evidence
from the reading to support your response. (2.1.2)
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Based on what you have read in this article, can you make a compelling
argument for or against banning books? Use specific evidence from the
selection to support your response. (2.3.2)
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                        Fahrenheit 451~A Summary
        In the novel, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, Guy Montag is a fireman in
charge of burning books. A gentle young girl named Clarisse McClellan opens his eyes to
the emptiness of his life with her innocently penetrating questions and peculiar love of
people and nature. After his wife, Mildred, attempts suicide without even realizing what
she is doing, after he witnesses an old woman let herself be burned with her books, and
after he hears that Clarisse has been killed by a speeding car, Montag searches for
solutions to his rising dissatisfaction in a stash of books he has stolen and hidden. He
looks to Mildred for help and support, but she prefers television to her husband‟s
company and cannot understand why he would want to take the terrible risk of reading
books. Montag remembers an old intellectual named Faber with whom he once talked in
the park and goes to him for help in understanding what he reads. Meanwhile, Beatty,
Montag‟s superior, has guessed that Montag is experimenting with books and hints that
he should turn in the book he stole from the old woman‟s library within 24 hours. Faber
explains the value of books to Montag, which lies in their ability to store and
communicate meaningful information, something that their society now lacks. He agrees
to help Montag and gives him a two-way radio that fits into his ear so that he can hear
what Montag hears and talk to him secretly. Montag goes home and finds two of his
wife‟s friends there. Their superficiality angers him, and he shows them a book of poetry
and reads them one of the poems. Mildred tries to explain this away as standard fireman
procedure for proving to people how useless books are, but the women leave quite
disturbed and upset.
        Montag goes to the fire station and hands over one of his books to Beatty. Beatty
browbeats him with his impressive knowledge of literature and historical quotations,
which he uses to support his argument that books are dangerous and must be destroyed.
An alarm comes through, and they rush off to Montag‟s own house. Mildred rushes out,
and Montag realizes it was she who put in the alarm. Beatty forces Montag to burn the
house himself, and when he is done, he places him under arrest. Beatty continues to
berate Montag, who turns the flamethrower on his superior and proceeds to burn him to
ashes. Montag knocks the other firemen unconscious and begins to run, when the
Mechanical Hound, a monstrous machine that Beatty has set to attack Montag, appears
and pounces. Montag manages to destroy it with his flamethrower, but not before it
injects his leg with a large dose of anesthetic. Montag walks off the numbness in his leg
and escapes with some books that were hidden in the backyard. He hides these in one of
the other firemen‟s houses and calls in an alarm from a payphone.
He goes to Faber‟s house, where he learns that a new Hound has been put on his trail.
Faber tells Montag he is leaving for St. Louis to see a retired printer who may be able to
help them, and Montag gives him some money and tells him how to remove his scent
from the house so the Hound will not enter it. He takes some of Faber‟s old clothes and
runs off toward the river. The whole city watches as the chase unfolds on TV, but Montag
manages to escape in the river and change into Faber‟s clothes to disguise his scent. He
drifts downstream into the country and follows a set of abandoned railroad tracks until he



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finds a group of renegade intellectuals led by a man named Granger who welcome him.
They are a part of a nationwide network of book-lovers who have memorized many great
works of literature and philosophy. They hope that they may be of some help to mankind
in the aftermath of the war that has just been declared. Enemy jets appear in the sky and
drop their bombs on the city, which is instantly vaporized. Montag and the others turn
and head up the river to see if they can help the survivors, and Montag knows he will
soon follow the other refugees out into the countryside, where there will always be plenty
to keep him fulfilled.
From http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/451/


Read the summary of the novel by Ray Bradbury titled, Fahrenheit 451.
What is the author trying to communicate to the reader? Use specific
evidence from the selection to support your response. (1.1.3)
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Based on the reading, can you explain what motivates Guy Montag to
question his job as a “book burner”? Use specific evidence from the
summary to support your response. (1.2.4)
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Ray Bradbury~a biography
        Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on August 22, 1920. By the time
he was 11, he had already begun writing his own stories on butcher paper. His family
moved fairly frequently, and he graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938. He
had no further formal education, but he studied on his own at the library and continued to
write. He earned money for several years selling newspapers on street corners. His first
published story was “Hollerbochen‟s Dilemma,” which appeared in 1938 in
Imagination!, a magazine for amateur writers. His first paid publication was “Pendulum,”
which appeared in Super Science Stories in 1941. His book The Martian Chronicles,
published in 1950, established his reputation as a leading writer of science fiction.
Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953 and became his most popular and widely read
work of fiction. Bradbury has received many awards for his writing and has been
honored in a number of ways; most notably, the Dandelion Crater on the Moon was
named for his novel Dandelion Wine. Bradbury continues to write and now lives in
California.
        In the coda added to later editions of Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury explains that the
grim future setting he created—in which books are outlawed—is an extrapolation of his
own struggle with various editors and special interest groups who asked him to remove
certain “offensive” passages from his books and stories. He laments the appearance of
literary anthologies in which the various stories have been watered down making all the
authors sound the same. This observation of the real world in the 1950s closely resembles
the beginning of the process that led to burning books in the novel. Bradbury complains
that even this book, Fahrenheit 451, with its staunch anti-censorship message, has been
censored many times by prudish editors who delete foul language from the book.
From http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/451/

Read the selection. How would you explain the reasons for Ray
Bradbury’s feelings about censorship to a friend? Use specific evidence
from the selection in your response. (2.3.2)

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You have been given the power to ban something.              Explain what it
would be and why. Offer three specific reasons.
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What communication medium would you use in school to convince
others of your point of view (about banning…)? Use specific reasons to
explain why you believe that medium would be most effective.
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