US Banned Books Week 11

Nueva students and faculty came together to celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week, which took place September 24–30.

In the Writing Resource Center, Upper School Research Librarian Jan Patton brought in a large cage and locked up some of Nueva’s books that were among the titles being challenged in American schools and libraries. On the monitor over the welcome desk, a special set of slides highlighted where and why books are contested. A few slides noted recent incidents of people still trying to restrict books. Another slide featured a Parthenon-style structure comprising 100,000 banned books, recently built in Germany.

Each year, the American Library Association compiles a list of books that were either objected to or outright banned and removed from the curriculum or library shelf. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. An annual event held in the last week of September, this awareness campaign aims to engage communities about the problem of book censorship. Although Jan has organized Banned Books Week events in the past, this was the first time she hosted a celebration at Nueva.

“Students react very strongly to the idea that books may be challenged or removed from the curriculum or library in some parts of the country,” Jan said. “This happens for various reasons but often because the content falls outside of what is considered mainstream — stories about people of color or questioning sexuality.”

US Banned Books Week 15

As part of the week-long celebration, Jan hosted a roundtable Read Out of banned books. Passing around a microphone, students and faculty shared excerpts from books that have a history of being restricted or opposed to in school libraries. Jan provided more specific information about the restrictions from the published list of objections archived by the ALA. The selected readings, drawn from both fiction and poetry, included The Bell Jar, The Handmaid’s Tale, Eleanor & Park, Brave New World, and poems by Allen Ginsberg.

“We take the access to books and information for granted,” Jan said. “It’s a right given by the First Amendment. In many parts of the world, this is not the case. By having the Read Out, we are joining with other libraries, bookstores, and schools to celebrate this right and access, and give voice to those we will not silence.”

Senior Natalie F. got into the spirit of the day by coming to school dressed in a banned books themed outfit: a Moby Dick t-shirt, a Lord of the Rings necklace, and “put a sock in censorship” socks (right sock: titles of famous banned books, left sock: the same titles, crossed out).

“Literary censorship has been near and dear to my heart ever since I wrote a sci-fi dystopian novel about a banned book for my eighth-grade Recital Project at the Nueva Middle School,” Natalie explained. “I knew about banned books because in my seventh-grade Advisory Lit Club, my advisor had made a concerted effort to have us read controversial books like 1984, and A Catcher in the Rye. Brave New World was considered, but we did not read it, so I read it on my own.”

Jan hopes to engage even more participants in next year’s Read Out, and she has already started planning different ways to celebrate the right to read.

Photo Credit: Libby M. (Grade 11)


 October 6, 2017




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