By Natalie Cooper and Ainsley Wang
As the number of banned books increases rapidly, Banned Books Week (September 18-24) is as important as ever. In 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) cataloged 681 efforts to target 1,651 unique titles between January and August. This number is more than double the challenges tracked in all of 2019, many of which focus on race, LGBTQ+ issues, religion, and history. Ms. Duncan describes the effects of Banned books as a librarian, stating, part of my job is to provide books and resources that represent all kinds of people and share a variety of perspectives. I hope people read books not only to see mirrors of their own experiences but also to have a window into other people’s experiences.”
According to the ALA, books are challenged or banned if considered “unsuited for an age group” or “explicit or offensive” by state and local authorities. When a book is banned, it is removed from libraries, reading lists, curricula, and bookstores, severely limiting students’ access to them. Since its founding in 1982, Banned Book Week has emphasized the importance of free and open access to information. This week-long celebration, sponsored by the American Library Association and other free speech organizations, brings together the entire book community to support the freedom to seek and express ideas.
All Winsor Upper Schoolers read at least four historically banned books. In the fall, Class V students read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, which was removed from school libraries in 1960 for “excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, [and] things concerning moral issues,” according to Bookcyzk. In the spring, students read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, which was removed for themes of sexual explicitness. In Class VI, students read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. These two books were challenged because of language, explicit references, homosexuality, violence, and vulgarity.
Banned books are important to read– they often deal with subjects that are realistic, timely, and topical. According to Ms. Smogard, “Banned books expose students to important truths and perspectives that can quite literally change the way people think–which is threatening to people who want to tell kids what they should think instead of letting them decide for themselves.”