Celebrating the Freedom to Read: Banned Books Week at Arcadia

By schwartzsa | October 8, 2012

By FRANCESCA MAYR ’16 Photography KARA WRIGHT ’14 Arcadia students and faculty lent their voices to hushed and silenced authors, as they gathered in the Commons for a three-hour read-out in recognition of Banned Books Week on Oct. 3. Every fifteen minutes a new volunteer read aloud from a different volume, from Vonnegut to Rowling, and though the characters were different the narrative was the same: “We will not be silenced.” “As a librarian, it’s really important to me that people have the opportunity to be exposed to different ideas,” says Karen Kohn, Collections Development Manager, who founded Arcadia’s Banned Books Week Read-Out with Dr. Smita Mathur, Assistant Professor of Education. “When books get banned, it’s because people think it’s different than what they believe. We hope students at Arcadia are exposed to viewpoints that are different than what they believe or ideas that might be new to them.” Since 1982 bookstores, libraries, and schools have set aside the last week of September to put the most challenged books on display during Banned Book Week in a national outcry for the freedom to read. It’s surprising that censorship is still prevalent in an age of endless information, and a resulting collective intelligence—the Office of Intellectual Freedom recorded 326 instances in which books were challenged this past year. “I felt strongly about reading because banning books is an infringement on our personal rights—freedom of speech,” says Emily Eliasen ’16, who participated in the read-out. “These books might be offensive or difficult to understand, but if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Don’t keep others from reading.” “I think it’s ridiculous how books are banned, just because certain people don’t like what’s in them,” says Amy Gabrielle ’14, citing the Harry Potter series as one such example. Some other books that were read at the event? Everything from classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird to young adult fiction such as The Hunger Games. “Karen and I decided that we would just have a read-out and sit out in the open, read books aloud, emphasize that we should celebrate reading, and that banning books is not a cool idea,” explains Mathur. “We are hoping to inspire students to read more and more and take some risks.”