A display at Los Alamos High School recognizing Banned Books. Photo Courtesy LAPS
Assassination Classroom. Drama. Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass. This One Summer. These are just a few of the book titles that have made the list of banned and challenged books. For the second year in a row, students at Los Alamos High School participated in Banned Books Week and chose to “Keep the Light On”.
“Banned Books Week is a way to spark discussion about freedom of expression and the importance of having a voice and hearing others’ voices,” said Topper librarian Shannon Seitz. “Censoring ideas and information that is deemed objectionable inhibits intellectual freedom, the basis of our democratic system. To govern ourselves responsibly, citizens must be informed. To be informed, citizens must be able to examine all sides of a question, which is only possible with free access to varied points of view.”
According to the Banned Books Week website, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information.”
“Censorship Leaves Us In the Dark: Keep the Light On” was this year’s national Banned Books Week theme. In keeping with that theme, library student assistant Shena Han created a display for A-wing lobby. LAHS students Brooklynn Scott, Maybelle Wilson and Elliot Madsen created informational displays and activity stations within the library.
This year we laid the groundwork for Banned Books Week in mid-August with class presentations on censorship, the origin of Banned Books Week, and the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom’s 2018 statistics on challenged and banned books, according to Seitz. From there, English teacher Margo Batha had all of her English classes check out banned or challenged books to read to go along with an instructional unit in her class that culminated in a project. LAHS teacher Ildiko Nadaskay-Goeller’s Creative Writing Class took the information and generated their personal responses to censorship then created a display, which was shared in the library.
A new component this year was tying the Project LIT read to Banned Books Week. Project LIT is a nationwide, student-driven book group that chooses diverse, high-interest, culturally relevant books to read each year. Last year, the students in our chapter chose The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas as one of this year’s reads. Batha noted that the title is fourth on the ALA’s 2018 list of banned and challenged books. “We planned the movie viewing and book and movie discussion as events during Banned Books Week,” said Seitz. “We transformed Topper Library into a cinema, served popcorn, and stayed open late so students could watch the entire movie.”
Topper Library staff also promoted the ALA’s Dear Banned Author and Stand for the Banned video campaigns. More popular was the mugshot station where students declared themselves “guilty” of standing for the banned with mugshots including their name and the banned titles they had read. These options were new, an expansion of last year’s read-out.
“During Banned Books Week, our reading challenge focused on the freedom to read, specifically the freedom to choose what we read,” Seitz said. “While we had banned books on display for students to pick up, read and check out, we also emphasized the freedom of choice.”
Participants in the official Banned Books Week read-out logged 103 hours, which beat last year’s total of 93.75 hours. And that total does not include the time Batha’s students spent reading their banned books cover to cover then creating individual projects for her class–a new component to this year’s censorship awareness campaign.
According to the American Library Association website, books are still being banned and challenged today. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.
While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.
Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials cannot ban books in libraries simply because of their content, as noted on the ALA website.
For more information about Banned Books Week, go to bannedbooksweek.org. For upcoming events in the Topper Library, go to https://sites.google.com/laschools.net/topperlibrary. Or check out the Topper Library Instagram and Facebook posts.