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Lately with Layne: Banned Books Week raises awareness of harmful censorship

The American Library Association began observing Banned Books Week in 1982. According to its website, it “celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.” Teachers, authors, students, librarians and supporters of the First Amendment can all come together this Oct. 1-7 to bring awareness to this harmful form of censorship that affects our nation as a whole. 

Now more than ever, education is being censored. Topics like racism and sexism as well as LGBTQIA+ themes being put to a halt in certain places are disregarding all students’ First Amendment rights. Florida laws like the Stop WOKE Act and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill don’t directly prohibit any titles from being incorporated into the curriculum, but they freely open the opportunity for books to be challenged and removed from school libraries and lesson plans. Evidently, many have done so as Pen America named Florida as having the second-highest number of banned books between July and December of 2022 at 357 books. 

In a similar, but not as severe situation is Ohio. There have been 79 titles challenged in total, but House Bills 322 and 327 that prohibit teachings of “divisive concepts” being passed could increase that number quickly. The bills haven’t been dismissed but have been in the House committee since 2021. With the growing popularity and turmoil of such censorship, Ohio may follow the trend., a popular online bookstore, has an entry titled, “We Don’t Ban Books Over Here” in which readers can purchase books that are typically challenged or banned in some schools or libraries. It includes works such as “Lord of the Flies,” “The Hate U Give” and “The 1619 Project.” One of the more ironic ones found on this list, which has been read by a large number of students who attended public high schools, is “Fahrenheit 451.” While its significance went over my head as a 15-year-old, it is certainly one of the most crucial books for readers today. Banning a book about banning books is a terrifying level of censorship that is inexcusable. 

“The Kite Runner” has to be one of the most disheartening to see banned in certain counties in Florida. While it is completely available online, it’s heartbreaking that these students will never be guided through such a story by a passionate teacher who isn’t scared that their job is on the line for doing so. This book has no sexually explicit content or harmful themes; it is a story of a father-and-son relationship amid a rising Taliban presence in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

With that, the theme for this year’s Banned Books Week is “Let freedom read.” Reading different perspectives and stories is one of our most rewarding freedoms, and removing that right from people is a disgrace to the developing minds of our country. The ALA reported that of the 2,571 titles flagged for censorship, “most were by or about LGBTQIA+ persons and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” As a student and a human, these themes and perspectives that I don’t experience are crucial to understand so that I can better interact with the world around me. 

Banning books is a direct and unfortunately common threat to the First Amendment. As “Banned Book Week” approaches, I encourage you to discover a book that has been banned or challenged. I’m almost certain that you will find a book that is not only enjoyable, but also worthy of belonging on the shelves of public libraries and on the syllabi of language arts classes without threats. 

Layne Rey is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Let Layne know by tweeting her @laynerey12.

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