The "Harry Potter" series, "Of Mice & Men," the "Captain Underpants" series and "The Catcher in the Rye" are all massively popular and successful books.

They're also some of the most challenged or banned books since 2000, according to the American Library Association.

Sunday marked the start of Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read.

“Throughout history, there always have been a few people who don’t want information to be freely available. And this is still true," American Library Association President Wanda Brown said in a statement. "We hope to remind Americans that the ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely is a right, not a privilege."

Since the first Banned Books Week in 1982, more than 10,000 books have been challenged, according to the association.

In 2018, there were 483 books challenged or banned in libraries around the country, typically targeting books for teenagers and children.

The most common reasons for a challenge are because the material is considered to be sexually explicit, contains offensive language or is "unsuited to any age group," according to the association.

Local libraries are participating in Banned Books Week as well.

Florida Public Library is holding a Banned Books Night at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, where people can read aloud from their favorite banned book.

The library's book club is also reading "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson, which is on the American Library Association's list of most challenged or banned books.

“Everybody has a certain worldview that they come from and reading books exposes you to other worldviews, exposes you to ways of considering things that you may not have initially thought about," said Barron Angell, librarian and program coordinator at the Florida library. "It gives you different perspectives on issues and on the world. If you try to shut all that out just because you’re afraid of what that might do to your perception or to the world that you live in, sometimes that’s a risk we have to take. We have to be willing to open ourselves up to sometimes having our beliefs questioned."

Michelle Muller, head of youth services and assistant director of the Goshen Public Library, said she encourages parents with concerns about certain books their children are interested in to read them ahead of time or read them with their child.

In Muller's 17 years working at the library, she said she could only remember about three challenges of books in its children's collection.

The library's mission is to provide free access to a variety of ideas and beliefs and not to impose any bias or particular values on the community it serves, according to Muller.

“I think when you ban a book to keep children from being exposed to those ideas, you’re doing them a disservice to broaden their world and broaden their experiences,” she added.

mnanci@th-record.com