October 1 marked the end of Banned Book Week 2016. Here at SUNY Plattsburgh, we celebrated with a Banned Book Read-Out in the library on Wednesday September 28. Students from Dr. Tracie Church Guzzio's ENG170 (Multicultural American Literature) class read excerpts from some of our favorite books that have appeared on banned or challenged book lists in recent years.
It's amazing how many books are challenged each year, and especially how many of those books fit into this year's theme of “books with diverse content." Novels that include people of color or LGBTQ issues are far more likely to be banned in schools/libraries across the country than those that do not. It is amazing that in a world where almost every child has access to tablets, smart phones, or laptops we choose to hide books from them.
Walking down a middle school hallway could teach anyone curse words that they didn't even know existed, and a high school hallway is filled with more sexual innuendos and party talk than you could ever dream. Yet somehow, these are the same children who cannot handle a gay character. The same children who cannot be exposed to foul language, accurate historical depictions, or references to sex, drugs and alcohol.
I am grateful to have lived in a progressive community where many books on this list were actually taught in the classroom, but I know that not all students are afforded that opportunity. As a future educator, I realize the importance of giving voices to, and exposing students to the voices of all authors. Not every message is a positive one, but not every message in the real world is a positive one either. Students should know how to interpret these things for themselves, and the classroom is the best place to train them to do so.
In celebration of the week, I encourage you to visit www.ala.org and view the ever-growing list of book bannings across our nation. Read them. Talk about them. Share them. But most importantly, recognize the importance of them. Stand up for your right to read.