Banned Book Month Celebrates Freedom to Read

Katarzyna Nguyen, Staff Writer

1984, Brave New World, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Catcher in the Rye. What do these books have in common? They’re all banned books that have been taught at Liberty. 

Banned Book Week began on September 26 and marks the start of Banned Book Month, which lasts through October.

Banned Book Week started back in 1982 to combat the increased number of books being banned in America and around the world. Today, it aims to go against censorship and connect a large community of readers, authors, teachers, and those alike. It also encourages freedom of expression through writing and the freedom to access that information. Banned Book Month is celebrated in many schools and libraries across the country to extend the time that banned books are promoted and discussed.

A few of Liberty’s literature teachers have been teaching banned books for many years. Banning books in schools presents a multitude of issues. 

“Banning books denies opportunities to grow your brain. There’s no opportunity for learning in terms of what the purpose was for teaching that book,” Liberty English teacher John Crowley said.

Book banning contradicts the purpose of banning books in the first place. In the past, banning books has actually made students want to read them even more. 

“Books should never be banned. If you ban books, it almost makes it sound like we’re so shallow-minded that we can only agree with the books that we read,” Liberty English teacher Henry Level said. 

The reasons for banning certain books are usually because the books feature controversial topics, but many teachers consider these topics important to discuss in English classes.

“I would prefer to give kids an opportunity to discuss an uncomfortable topic in the safe confines of a classroom rather than experience those topics outside of the classroom on their own without the voices of others and a teacher there to help facilitate the discussion,” Level said.

“It helps a lot for kids to be able to make up their own minds and form their own opinions,” Liberty’s librarian JoAnn Olsson said.

Of course, not everyone agrees with the topics presented in certain banned books. In their years of teaching, both Crowley and Level have experienced backlash from parents when teaching banned books.

“You let parents emotionally vent. You listen to them respectfully, and then you offer them your ideas,” Crowley said. 

Compared to decades ago when Banned Book Week started, our society now requires us to be more inclusive of different perspectives and opinions. School districts have had to adjust to this change, too. 

“As the Issaquah School District has been starting to value equity more, the district is recognizing that that means contemporary texts and contemporary authors tend to bring things like swearing into the curriculum,” Level said.

Even though Banned Book Month may not seem as relevant in today’s society, that doesn’t mean that censorship isn’t present in today’s world. Censorship of books still occurs in a number of school districts in America, and the American Library Association is aware of that.

“It goes against the way that we want to teach. The American Library Association is a really big advocate for not keeping books out of libraries, or out of the hands of anyone.” Olsson said. 

Banned Book Month has made a huge impact in school districts across the nation, and it continues to bring diverse books and topics into classrooms everywhere.