Reflections during Banned Books Week

Erika Heck and Erika Heck

It is the most wonderful time of the year. I could feel it down in my soul when I woke up this week and my toes were cold.

It’s Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is a weeklong event, where the freedom to read is celebrated.

But not everyone thinks certain books should be celebrated. Some people don’t want certain books to be read at all.

Public and sometimes private schools restrict access to books in their library. Sometimes, this cannot be helped – because of funding, they simply don’t have the book. And normally that’s not the problem since the book can easily be found with the help of the librarian.

Other times a book a child is reading, whether it is leisurely or for a class, has upset a parent. It can be anything about the book, from the content of the story itself – which is the case in the challenging of John Green’s best-seller, “Looking for Alaska” – to a trait of a character -best-seller “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has been challenged for having gay characters and content.

The parent(s) goes to the school board and try to get the book either taken from the library shelves or off of the school’s curriculum.

My mom used to tell me the story about how her middle school teachers would take “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume away from her and her classmates in the 70s – the main character at the end gets her first menstruation.

Every year during this week, I remind myself of how fortunate I was to have never had my reading options restricted by my parents or my school district. In fact, I was encouraged to read by those people the most.

Books to read for pleasure were easy to get because my family didn’t have a computer at home and the library wasn’t very far from where we lived at the time.

At school, starting in eighth grade, reading was something that was part of the daily routine. I had a class period with my science teacher – all the class schedule paper said was “READ” – and she had a cabinet full of books, audio tapes with recorders and audiobook CDs. We were told to either read on our own, or to read in a group with a few other of our peers.

The habit of reading during the school day followed myself and a handful of my friends to high school, to the point where we were sometimes even reading during our classes.

Our teachers caught on to our love of books and were awesome enough to start giving us recommendations based on our individual book interests. They trusted us enough to allow us to take books from their own libraries in the classroom and read them. The one time I lost a book I had borrowed from a teacher, I was devastated and made sure I replaced it.

It’s during Banned Books Week that I reflect on this time in my life the most.

Books, for a good part of my high school career, helped me with issues I was facing personally and it helped me connect with friends and teachers better on a personal level.

Books have helped me connect with people for a majority of my college career as well. I hope to use my love of my books more as I make advances in my post-grad life.

And I want to share this with everyone else because I love reading. There was a time when I fell out of love with reading and recently, I found it again.

And shouldn’t this be a wonderful thing to celebrate?