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Sigma Tau Delta celebrates Banned Books Week at Ohio Northern

Kelly Lewis reads a passage from the novel

Kelly Lewis reads a passage from the novel "Boytoy." (Northern Review photo/Dominic Turnea)

On September 26, Ohio Northern’s English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta, hosted the annual Banned Book Reading event in Heterick Memorial Library. Banned Book reading celebrates the national freedom of reading. Both students and staff were able to passages from books that have either been banned or challenged by society. 

Students and staff entered the first floor library, welcomed by Assistant Professor of English Douglas Dowland, who serves as the adviser for Sigma Tau Delta. Cookies and brownies were offered for all who attended, but the real treat involved reading book passages that have been considered forbidden. 

The first passage was read by Dowland, who presented one of the highest selling books of all time, as well as one of the most challenged books: The Bible. After reading a passage from the book of Genesis, Dowland explained that books were often banned and challenged for many different reasons:

Fifteen years ago the challenge of books may have simply come from dirty words.  Now, the issue may not be language, or obscenity, but a point of view.” 

Students Rachel Cruea and Kelley Lewis tackled the issue of explicit books by reading passages from "Rules of Attraction" and "Boy Toy."  Cruea, a senior creative writing major and president of Sigma Tau Delta, explains that all forms of literature, whether banned or not, present a story and lesson for all.      

“It's something the reader can take with them without experiencing it. We can look in a text and learn something from it,” Cruea said.

Lewis read a passage from "Boy Toy" by Barry Lyga. The novel is not banned, but often removed from library shelves, unavailable for reading. Lewis defined this concept as “self-censoring”. 

“If you’re taking away a fresh book that hasn’t been read by the public, it stops readers from having the opportunity to read it,” Lewis said. 

Although Banned Books Week encourages the freedom of reading, not all literature is considered appropriate for readers. When it comes to adults and having the youth reading, at what point is a book considered inappropriate for a certain age group?  That question alone was a key discussion topic for audience members. 

While people were in favor of kids reading material regardless of the content, some believe adults should be able to feel concerned if a child was reading something that can be labeled inappropriate, such as sexual content or harsh violence presented in a book. Associate Professor of English Margot Cullen expressed with the audience about adults and how they should be able to recommend appropriate literature for children without being accused of “banning the book."

“Adults can read what they want, but adults having discernment about age appropriate material is reasonable in every context, including libraries and schools,” Cullen said.

As adults, those above eighteen years of age, should not have to be monitored of reading, because they are assumed to be matured and understand context. As for children, adults can recommend books to them, but would an adult really recommend a novel to a child that discusses graphic material such as rape or murder? 

For the rest of the evening books were read from various individuals such as Sofie Moeller, Kasy Long, and Kathleen Baril. Another reader was Tena Roepke, Interim Dean of the Getty College of Arts and Sciences, who read from the novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time." 

Here in the United States, individuals have the freedom to read what they please, find appropriate, or find enjoyable during anytime of the day. For Banned Books Week, everyone is reminded that reading is a privilege, but also a choice. 

Sigma Tau Delta continues to bring literary topics into light; the organization provides a variety of opportunities to discuss the craft of literature and English. This upcoming spring semester, Sigma Tau Delta will also host a reading on women writers throughout history, and the event is open to all students, staff and faculty. 

More information on Banned Books in American can be found at the American Library Association website, where statistics on banned literature and their subjects can be furthered examined. 


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