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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary’s College holds Banned Book Week

Last week, Saint Mary’s College held their annual Banned Book Week.

Founded in 1982 by librarian Judith Krug, Banned Book Week is annual event that celebrates the freedom to read and access information while highlighting current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.

“I think it’s particularly important this year because we’re seeing a lot more bans and challenges,” associate professor of education Terri Suico said. 

Suico explained the importance of the event and the need to raise awareness.

”We’ve seen this huge surge in people, and it’s a very small minority, who are trying to limit access to books in schools and public libraries,” she said. “It’s important to draw attention to that and to make people aware.”

The week started with a read-in at the writing center in the Cushwa-Leighton Library. During the event, designated readers would read portions of a banned book aloud.

On Thursday, students and staff went to the Spark Lab to make buttons that read “I read banned books” and “Freedom to read.” The week ended with a “talk back” in Madeleva Memorial Classroom Building. The event was hosted by Suico and Stacy Davis, professor of theology and gender and women’s studies. 

The talk back started with an introduction on the motivations for holding Banned Book Week and a showing of the documentary “Judy Blume Forever.” The documentary addressed how Blume was censored because of the topics she covered in her books were targeted toward young adults. 

At the end of the documentary, attendees discussed their reactions to the documentary and how they felt about Banned Book Week. 

Piper Odgen, who took a class on banned books with Suico, explained why she attended Banned Book Week.

“I’m an elementary education major, so I’m super interested in literature, but as a future teacher, it’s really hard to learn about banned books,” she said. “There might be parents who challenge books that I want my students to read, and so talking about banned books is a great way to prepare myself for these conversations.”

Saint Mary’s College hosted a Banned Books Week, discussing books such as “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Mockingjay"” and “Slaughterhouse Five.”

A portion of the discussion included why books are banned and how these books often contain characters who are LGBTQ+ or from other diverse backgrounds. 

“I think it’s going to help people want to be aware of all the different books that are banned. Any book that you can imagine has been banned or challenged at some point,” Suico said. “A large majority of the books that are being challenged are books that are by or about people who are from diverse backgrounds who traditionally haven’t been able to tell their stories.” 

Suico also commented on Saint Mary’s role as an academic institution in this discussion.

“I’m hoping to draw attention … to the fact that we are in a place of higher learning, and one of the tenets is learning about important issues and sometimes confronting topics that we’re not always comfortable with talking about,” she said.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), 71% of voters oppose book bans in libraries. Still, Suico described a “surge in the 1980s and we are seeing a surge again now, but it is much worse.”

Ogden said that one of the concepts from her class on banned books that stood out the most was how few people actually support book banning.

“It can be super discouraging to be like ‘No one wants us to read all these books,’ but really most people don’t support these bans,” Ogden said. “That’s why it’s so important to continue talking about that. I think being able to have conversations about it and being able to recognize what these books can teach us all is important.”