Imagine living in a society where your government puts restrictions on what you can read. Picture yourself living in a place where your library can not allow you to read certain books. The scary part: we live in a place like this.
“Banning books is going against the First amendment,” said Nick Thompson, a junior at Castleton. “It’s not right.”
Some of the most read and most popular books in America have been deemed contraband by school districts and government officials across the United States. A good portion of these books are stories we read in elementary school, middle school, and high school as part of our English curriculum. Ironically, these books that we grew up with as a part of our free education in our free American society are now on an extensive list entitled The Banned Book List.
Books on this list range from text books like ‘Earth Science,’ banned because it teaches strictly evolution, to Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ banned because it promoted a poor philosophy of life.
But each year, librarians around the nation take a stand against the government and their contraband of specific literature. From Sept. 27 to Oct. 4, all forms of literature will be celebrated, even those deemed banned.
Banned Book Week, according to the American Library Association, “celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”
Most often books are banned under the claim that they are inappropriate for kids. However, these groups don’t have that right, according to the American Library Association. Under a subdivision of the Library Bill of Rights, only parents and guardians of minors have the right to determine what a child is and is not permitted to read.
But still, groups continue to press the issue claiming select books should not be allowed in public schools and libraries under the claim that they are protecting children from difficult ideas and information.
“I can understand why some parents would be upset,” said Castleton State College English Department head, Dennis Shramek, “but that doesn’t mean I agree with it.”
Several students at the college disagree with the concept of censoring and banning books as well. Many were shocked when they read a list of books deemed classics on the list.
‘Gone with the Wind’ is Pulitzer Prize winning novel and considered a classic, but was banned from the Anaheim, Cal. Union High School District English classrooms in 1978 because of a derogatory term.
‘James and the Giant Peach’ was not only a childhood favorite, but was also made into a Disney film in 1996. But the book by Roald Dhal was banned on three separate occasions in 1991. The work of fiction was banned in two public schools in Florida and another in Virginia. Parents of students, backed by government officials, said that book was “inappropriate reading material for young children.”
“I feel that students that are kept from reading some of the books we grew up with are missing out,” said Justin Corcoran, a sophomore at Castleton State.
This year marks the 27th annual Banned Book Week, a week-long recognition of all those books sentenced to a life on the Banned Book List. Banned Book Week also encourages literary freedom, both in reading and writing. The Castleton State College library puts up a display each year to encourage the reading of banned books.
“We need to have the freedom to investigate different ways of life,” said Sandy Duling, CSC library director. Duling said that in previous years, students have done readings from their favorite banned books during the Banned Book Week. This year, another display will be set up in the Calvin Coolidge Library complete with a list of the banned books and the books themselves.
According to Duling, the library on campus has not encountered a direct issue.
“We have had incidents with parents complaining about the Internet access,” she said.
But she stressed that Castleton State’s library will continue to provide open access to literature and the Internet. Though there has not been an incident directly on campus, in 1995 there was uproar over the book ‘Daddy’s Roommate,’ which appeared on the shelves of the Rutland Free Library. Library Director Paula Baker, came under attack by a Rutland mother backed by parents from around the Rutland community who said the book was inappropriate for children. Though the parents were not looking to ban the book altogether, they did want the book taken out of the general collection so that children could not check out the book without an adult’s consent.
Baker stood her ground and defended the book’s availability. On June 14, 1995, the decision was made and the book would stay put. Duling agreed with Baker’s decision so greatly that after the hearing, she nominated Baker for a national award for her efforts. She believes that some books are inappropriate for children but determining their availability for children is the parents’ job, not the librarians.
“Bad literature seldom makes those lists because they are not compelling,” she said. Duling said both she and her children often pick their next book from the Banned Book List because they were so well written. She encourages students at CSC students to do the same. Shramek agreed with Duling and explained that, in some instances, the best thing a writer could do is get themselves on the Banned Book List.
“Once people find out a book is banned it becomes very popular. That’s why censorship doesn’t work in our society,” he said.
Efforts in preserving the availability of all literate are especially important now that stories have emerged about vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin banning several books in a public library in Wasilla, Alaska while she was mayor of the town. When a librarian did not comply with the banning, she was fired. Her job was reinstated but it raised the issue of banning and unconventional restrictions on literature set by Palin.
“It’s a really good talking point for the opposition,” said Castleton Professor, Robert Wuagneux. He continued, saying, “Where does it stop and who will determine it?