Students Allow Banned Books to Inspire
Students in English and Women's Studies courses at Penn State DuBois, taught by Senior Instructor Jackie Atkins, participated in a Banned Books Celebration on September 30, as part of the American Library Association's (ALA) Banned Books Week.
According to the ALA, Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States.
To demonstrate the importance of the accessibility of all books, students selected and read passages from books that have been considered controversial, or even banned by some entities at some point in history. They focused on works that had been written by influential female authors.
"Our country doesn't ban books anymore," said Atkins. "But, some organizations still do. Schools, libraries, or groups may ban them if they find them inappropriate."
Penn State DuBois Reference Librarian Carrie Bishop explained, "Libraries across the country are asked for books to be taken off the shelves every day because of a group's beliefs. It doesn't usually happen because the librarians want to keep all books accessible, but the requests do come in."
Students chose to read excerpts from a broad range of books written by women. From Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), to J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), the selections of literature spanned centuries, and covered a wide variety of subjects and themes, from race, to sexuality. It demonstrated many different reasons that some books have been deemed controversial.
"For some books, it was for drug use, others for sexual content," Atkins said of the motives some groups or individuals have had in calling for the censorship of literature. "It depends on the book and the entity that wants to ban it."
Atkins said celebrating books that have been the subject of controversy highlights the importance of free speech and open access to information. She said, "Some students don't realize books can be challenged even today in our country. It is important to keep them aware of censorship, and aware of the possibility that we may not be exposed to some great literature because of the foibles of a few people."