When the American Library Association publishes its Top 10 banned books, English professor Megan Howard is, rather ironically, giddy about what titles have made the annual list.
For the second straight year, Howard and the Montgomery College English and Reading Department hosted the Banned Book Scavenger Hunt on the Rockville Campus. The event is scheduled around The American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Book Week, an annual “celebration” of sorts that happens in late September.
Howard, the coordinator of the event, says, “Our goals are outreach to students to encourage reading and promote literature classes, and also just create a fun event connected with literature for students.”
The Banned Book events spotlight current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. Howard selects the books to feature in the scavenger hunt based on the ALA Banned Book top 100 list.
We hope students learn something about the importance of reading books that are considered subversive or inappropriate… Quite often, those books contain the voices and experiences of marginalized peoples
“The ALA publishes the list of the most banned books in the US every year. We select some of the books off of that list,” she says. “And we’ll also pull other books that are often taught in our literature classes that have been banned and appeared on the Top 100 list.”
What do American classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird or The Catcher in the Rye have in common with Persepolis, the autobiographical graphic novel by an Iranian girl growing up during and after the revolution, or with Margaret Atwood’s wildly popular The Handmaid’s Tale? The books have been banned in the United States or somewhere else in the world.
She says that the reason they choose books that they use in class is to let students know that some of the most important books they’ll read, or study, have been banned before.
“Banned Books Week” was launched in the 1980s after the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.
“We hope students learn something about the importance of reading books that are considered subversive or inappropriate,” Howard says. “Quite often, those books contain the voices and experiences of marginalized peoples.”
While books continue to be banned, part of Banned Books Week is the fact that most of the books have remained available. This is only thanks to the efforts of all those who “stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”
Howard adds, “students can fight censorship by reading [the banned books].”
The College awards all students who finish the Banned Book Scavenger Hunt a free banned book.
“We hope they have fun and realize that reading isn’t just about school and grades, literature is about life and living, it’s relevant to all of us,” Howard said.