Thursday, March 22, 2012

Challenge book bans

Editor supports First Amendment rights

By Mel Natwick, A&E Editor

Imagine you are reading your favorite book. Now imagine someone taking that book from you and saying you cannot read it anymore because it’s not suitable for you.

250981229_f6a1a0d548_o - Copy
Photo by anirvan, CC-BY-NC

Each year the American Library Association creates a top 10 list of frequently challenged books.

Challenged, as in somebody complains to have a book banned from public libraries and/or public schools.

Every time someone challenges a book,that someone is challenging your First Amendment rights.

According to the ALA website, 348 book challenges were reported in 2010, which is small compared to the 546 challenges in 2006. These challenges need to stop and need to be brought to national attention.

“Any time a conversation is started about a topic like book challenges or bans, it is a good thing because the general public is often oblivious to the fact that our freedoms and rights are being attacked on an ongoing basis,” Lincoln High School teacher and librarian Jan Muelhans said.

Books educate us. They serve a purpose. They have a goal to serve a certain audience. If books are removed, how will that audience be served and educated?

In New Jersey, Rancocas Valley High School Media Center Coordinator Dee Venuto fought an organization challenged to keep three books on the school shelves.

Members from a New Jersey local chapter of Glenn Beck’s conservative group, the 9/12 Project, came to the high school wanting to ban Love and Sex: 10 Stories of Truth; The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning; and Other Identities and Revolutionary Voices.

All three of the books talk about sexuality. At Rancocas Valley High School, Venuto said that there is a LGBTQ community in the school system and it is their responsibility to provide them with material.

Venuto did massive amounts of research in order to keep these three books on the shelves.

“I came in here [the library] a day after the book was challenged and I looked at my 150 students sitting in the library,” Venuto said. “To look at them and think I would not stand up for what they want to read, I couldn’t do that.”

In the end, the school board decided to ban Revolutionary Voices from the school.

Even though it can be scary to stand up against organized groups, it’s extremely important to fight for your First Amendment rights.

For Venuto, the opposition was “none too pleasant” because of a hateful email about her that circulated around the community, but she said she would fight for intellectual freedom again because it is her responsibility as a librarian. 

It’s not fair to have books banned because one opposition thinks it is inappropriate for everyone. Don’t let one voice keep you from reading what you want to read.

It is rare for book challenges to happen in Washington state, but these challenges are still happening across the country. Book censorship is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Support events such as Banned Books Week on the ALA website and if someone challenges your right to read, fight for it, because once that freedom is gone, it’s gone.