GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Banned Books Week is raising eyebrows across the country as PEN America reports that more books are being taken off the shelves than ever before.
The Banned Books Awareness Initiative is about more than the books banned. Local readers believe that this week is an opportunity to shed light on the rights of student reading.
East Carolina University Associate English Professor Donna Kain believes that students deserve the right to choose what books they want to read.
“I don’t think it’s great to say, ‘Oh you can’t read these dangerous ideas.’ People are going to read these dangerous ideas,” said Kain. “They are going to be out there. So, I think it’s better to have honest conversations about what’s going on.”
Earlier this year, Ayden Middle School parents in Pitt County expressed concern to the school board about the book, All American Boys. The parents believed that certain themes like suicide, rape, and drug use mentioned throughout the plot were inappropriate for a middle school audience.
Pitt County Schools responded with this policy:
Another ECU professor, Helena Feder, agrees that not all books are made for every audience, but the issue comes to the surface when children are old enough to make their own decisions.
“In other words, people that promote free speech don’t feel that we need to agree with everything we read. They feel that students ought to be exposed to a wide variety of perspectives and ideas and learn how to think critically for themselves,” said Feder. “They need to determine what they will and will not believe in. That is a fundamental right that we all have… access to education, access to information.”
Feder also said that “often parents or members of a school board makes these moves to withdraw the texts from libraries and from curriculum because they feel that they promote ideas at which they disagree.”
Sheppard Memorial Library has been a staple of Greenville since the Great Depression. The library holds a large number of resources like magazines, internet access, e-books, and, of course, physical books.
Greg Needham, the library’s director, said libraries need access to books about anything and everything because our communities are home to every kind of people and every kind of viewpoint.
“I think most people understand that the public library… we are charged with having a balanced collection, something for everyone,” said Needham. “In a place like Pitt county, we have ECU students, we’ve got people from all over that come. We have a driving economy, so we have different businesses. People come in and out. So, really you need to have as wide a variety as possible.”
All the books that have been put on the “banned book list” are still available to buy at stores and rent from libraries.
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