Last week was national “Banned book awareness week” and like many other public and college libraries across the country, Wilmington College Watson Library participated in its annual “Read-In” event on Wednesday, August 25th. The national event which began in 1982 by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and the American Library Association (ALA) helps bring awareness of books previously and presently challenged today. The Watson Library’s event, orchestrated by Professor Gloria Flaherty has taken place for over 20 years. Students are able to sign up in the library and choose their favorite banned book to read a passage from. However, students who attend the “read-in” hear more than just a passage from these different books. Flaherty makes it a personal goal to get students to understand the historical context and themes as to why these books are challenged.
Parents have every right to choose what their children can read but when they try to use their power to control what other children can read- this moves to censorship. The parents’ rights are undeniable however, “we don’t take the book and throw it away; we talk about it” stated Flaherty in a group discussion at the read-in. This is an annual event because the fact of the matter is that books are still being challenged today. These challenges connect to what books can and cannot be in a teacher’s curriculum, are offered at public libraries, and are banned from the minds and imaginations of young students. “Children have impressive imaginations. These are the types of books that feed those imaginations. It breaks my heart to take that away” commented Professor Corey Cockerill, teacher of Media for Social Change. She has read at the event for four years but decided to make it a requirement for her class to go this year. The event received a lot of support this year as to the number of students aware of the read-in and engaged in the group discussions. It only seems right to notice how this event parallels with Wilmington College’s Quaker values. “We demonstrate here the kind of act that students can engage in toward social change” Cockerill expressed.
There are two critical points to remember that associate with the matter. Many would argue and agree that this is a violation of a right given to us in the first bill of our constitution- the freedom of speech. “We must constantly protect our liberties- our access to information, to read, and to know about things. This is a hallmark of a free society” communicated Jean Mulhern, Watson library director. The second critical point is to note that censorship is a local battle. In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled that censorship was a community standard dealt with through the state, not a national standard. This is why awareness is a critical. These small gesture and peaceful protests create awareness, which is the first step to the response.