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Reading Banned Books by Night

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Little-known fact: Reading about the parenting habits of penguins can be risquAc, homoerotic and anti-family — especially if it's the true story of two male chinstrap penguins raising an orphaned chick in New York's Central Park Zoo. That's the story of the children's book, “And Tango Makes Three,” written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. The book has topped the American Library Association's Top 10 list of most frequently challenged books for three years running.

“I don't have the imagination to figure out what could be objectionable,” says Jim Rettig, head librarian at the University of Richmond and president of the American Library Association, the largest of its kind in the world. “The ALA strongly supports everyone's First Amendment rights. It's up to individuals to decide what he or she reads or writes or listens to. With the one exception: that parents have the right to decide for their own children.”

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, acting director of the association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, has developed a particular fondness for “And Tango Makes Three.”

“It's such a charming tale,” she says. “I look at this list [of Top Ten Banned or Challenged Books] and it's almost all picture books or [young adult] novels. It makes me sad, this idea that young adults shouldn't be allowed to read these things. That's not true education. There's no magic button that turns on when someone reaches their 18th birthday. Children do have First Amendment rights. And they are going to be voting.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Carytown Books banned book reading has been cancelled.

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