Schools celebrate 'freedom to read'
by Mark Andrews
Sep 27, 2011 | 1304 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville High School senior Destinee Farmer said she’s interested in reading “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones, a young adult novel challenged to be banned.
MARK ANDREWS/The Daily Tribune News
Cartersville High School senior Destinee Farmer said she’s interested in reading “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones, a young adult novel challenged to be banned. MARK ANDREWS/The Daily Tribune News
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School libraries across the country this week are celebrating students' "freedom to read" by promoting books in their collections that have been considered controversial in the past and present during Banned Books Week.

"Trying to ban a book takes away your right to read and your right to printed information, and so we try to be selective in what we order," said Woodland High School Media Specialist Carole Payne.

The weeklong reading celebration began in 1982 and, according to the American Library Association's website, www.ala.org, "... Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."

Pat Turner, media specialist for the Cartersville High School library, said the intent of the week is to not only recognize first amendment rights and struggles for acceptance of some literature, but to help excite young readers.

"A lot of libraries don't want to draw attention to the idea of 'banned' books. They haven't necessarily been banned, but have been challenged," Turner said. "It just starts a conversation with people talking about banned books and kids think they're getting into something they're not supposed to."

Examples of books that have been challenged for removal include the recent "Twilight" series by Stephenie Myer and range to classics like Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

"If we didn't have our First Amendment, we wouldn't have access to all these books," Turner said.

She explained in order for a book to be removed from a school library, a party must first file a formal complaint and later the suggestion to remove the book is voted upon by a committee who has to review the book.

"To my knowledge we haven't had a book formally challenged because our librarians do a good job at picking out books," Turner said. "... We do have to use our own vast knowledge when reading the reviews and ordering our books to see if [the content] does fit in with our community, and our community is conservative and I take that into consideration whenever I am ordering."

This year Turner selected more contemporary young adult novels like Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" to be put on display. Senior Destinee Farmer designed the Banned Books Week display complete with police caution tape.

"We thought it would be cool to show students what books [people] have tried to ban but they can still read now," Farmer said.

At WHS, Payne said beginning Wednesday the media center will have a PowerPoint presentation of banned books available at the school.

"What we're going to do is put a projection over the main gate when you come in [the media center]. There's a long area of tables, then there's a drop down screen, and that's where we're going to be presenting our banned books," Payne said.

She said when she began serving as media specialist at WHS, parents questioned the content selection but no books actually have been banned.

"I've been here 11 years and probably the second year I was here we had five books that were challenged," Payne said.

She said if a parent questions the content of a book the parent will need to find another book for the child to read that meets the same academic criteria as the book in question and there is a formal process to undergo if the parent wants the book removed.

"We go with committees and teacher recommendations for our books so we are purchasing items that are useful in a student's education, and occasionally you're going to find one of those books that some one particular person feels is not appropriate for their child to read," Payne said.

For the complete list of books challenged in the U.S., visit www.ala.org.