Professor Bill Wiles and his Banned Books class introduces Books Unite Us, Censorships Divides Us in honor of Banned Book Week at the end of September.This coming week, Professor Bill Wiles and his students will be promoting “Banned Books Week” across Castleton University campus to bring awareness to the act of restricting literary content in schools both currently and historically.
The event is held annually by the American Library Association and will take place from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2.
“The goal of this class is to raise awareness of texts that have been banned throughout history. Why have they been banned? Mostly because they challenge somebody’s notion of what’s right,” Wiles said.
Wiles’ class, aptly named Banned Books, will be placing promotional posters and signage around campus as well as creating their own projects to showcase. The theme of this year’s week-long event is “books unite us, censorship divides us,” which aims to support the freedom to seek and express ideas—in literature and in life.
“I think that limiting people’s options for knowledge and restricting education is more harmful than informing people,” senior Madison Hamelink said.
She and her peers agree that though books are banned for many different reasons, most center around themes that have been deemed taboo in certain value systems—including LGBTQ+ themes, overt sexuality or sexual overtones, “anti-police” views and historically racist perceptions. Books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men,” and even the “Harry Potter” series have been banned in schools before, much to Wiles’ students’ dismay.
“I was looking at the top 100 books that [Professor Wiles] linked on Canvas and I thought one of the most ridiculous ones on there was “The Hate U Give” [by Angie Thomas],” sophomore Shay Lawrence said. “I remember reading that in high school and thinking that it was a really influential text about how the police perceive different people of different colors and races.”
Started in 1982 by prominent first amendment and library activist Judith Krug, Banned Books Week was originally intended to bring to light a slew of books that had been removed from school settings that year. Six weeks after first pitching the idea to the American Library Association, the first Banned Books Week was held.
This year, as Wiles and the class prepare for Banned Books Week, they ask Castleton students to participate in the event by reaching out to their favorite banned book author and letting them know what their work has meant to you. Writers are invited to send copies of their letters to Wiles or any member of this class to be put on display around the school.
When asked why they chose to take Wiles’ course, students Jaden Luke and William Moreno were quick to respond.
“I wanted to open up my horizon of preferred books to read and see different points of view,” Luke said.
“I heard that Professor Bill is a pretty cool teacher,” Moreno said with a chuckle.
“I’d say outstanding,” Wiles quipped in reply.