MRU reads for literary freedom
Trying to stop kids from reading can have opposite effect, Docherty says
Mount Royal University, in support of students’ intellectual and creative freedom, celebrated Freedom to Read week with students, faculty and staff staging open readings of banned books in front of the library during the lunch hour.
University president David Docherty took part in the event by reading a passage from The Wars by Timothy Findley, a novel that was recently banned by the Bluewater School Board in Ontario due to its violent and sexual content, the same school board that banned The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck when Docherty was in high school.
After The Grapes of Wrath was banned at his school, the first thing Docherty did was go to his local library and find a copy. He was only wondering what kind of content the adults were trying to hide, but it introduced him to a lot of new ideas and concepts, and opened his eyes to the world of politics.
This has led to Docherty to a slightly different view on book banning. He is all for it —— but with good reason.
“Kids will ask, ‘what don’t they want me to know?’ and seek out books on their own,” he said. For this reason, Docherty joked that public grade schools should be banning more books.
In August 1939, by a vote of 4 to 1, the board of Associate Famers of California approved a resolution banning The Grapes of Wrath from county libraries and schools, according to Banned Books Awareness.
To this day, the book continues to be burned and banned for its “depiction of migrants” and for claims of vulgar language and sexual references.
Jessie Loyer, a librarian at MRU, ran the event this year. It is her first year running the event, which she thinks it is a great op- portunity to bring attention to the library.
Loyer supports reading in all forms, and is always surprised when young adult novels turn up on banned book lists. Young adult books, Loyer said, are an opportunity to open up lots of people’s worlds.
Another lover of literature is Pattie Mascaro, a member of the support staff at the university who holds an undergraduate degree in English. She believes many banned books have very powerful and surprising ideas, and doesn’t see the reason for banning books.
Mascaro is a particular fan of speculative fiction, which includes genres like fantasy, sci-fi and horror. “It is a place where people can explore ideas that may be to scary to explore in a real life situation,” she said. That is why she chose to read from the banned book The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Mascaro said events like Freedom to Read are important because people think of book banning as something that happened 50 years ago, but it is very current. It happens to books for all ages, from Lolita to Harry Potter to Where the Wild Things Are.
Docherty said it’s significant when kids are given reasons to seek out books on their own. “The importance of reading is paramount,” he said.