The Harry Potter series topped the American Library Association’s 2001 list of most-challenged books for the third year running, the ALA reported in January.

The popular children’s series, penned by Scottish author J.K. Rowling, “drew complaints from parents and others concerned about the books’ focus on wizardry and magic,” according to the ALA.

The ALA received 448 reports of challenges last year. However, ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Director Judith F. Krug said the number of challenges reported is not a true representation of total challenges across the country. For every challenge reported by schools or libraries, as many as four or five go unreported.

Objections to the series surfaced Jan. 24 in Penryn, Pa., when local police refused to direct traffic for a YMCA-sponsored triathlon because the club reads the books to children during an after-school program, Associated Press reported.

Reading the books to children, said Penryn fire police Capt. Robert Fichthorn, promotes witchcraft, according to AP.

“I don’t feel right taking our children’s minds and teaching them (witchcraft),” Fichthorn told AP. “As long as we don’t stand up, it won’t stop. It’s unfortunate that this is the way it has to be.”

Also, a New Mexico church recently had a bonfire where members burned copies of Harry Potter books. writer Kimberly Keith recalled having qualms about the books. However, over time, Keith found the books to be harmless.

“As a Christian mom, the Harry Potter books don’t scare me,” Keith wrote. “I want my children to have wonder and imagination and magic in their lives. I want them to read books of fantasy that speak to and challenge their unconscious to be the best they can be.

“Then, when they encounter God in their lives, they will have both the ability to believe in His awesome nature and the discernment to recognize and follow the truth of His Word,” Keith wrote.

Other books on the list included John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, the 1998 most challenged work of fiction.

Jared Porter is a journalism student at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and BCE’s summer 2001 reporting intern.

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