Bay Path University recently held its 9th annual Banned Books Read Out in the Carol A. Leary Atrium at Blake Student Commons. Students, faculty, and staff gathered to celebrate Banned Books Week by reading from famous works that have been challenged or banned in the past. The annual event allows students and other members of the Bay Path community to learn more about and express creative ideas without censorship, while bringing awareness to societal changes over the years.
President Carol A. Leary took part in the event by reading a work from frequently challenged author Toni Morrison, while others chose passages from The Catcher in the Rye, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, Where the Wild Things Are, I Am Jazz, The Other Wes Moore, and many other popular titles.
Participants in the event explained why their chosen selection was banned, as well as discussed the importance of freedom of expression and growing from the exposure to challenged content. Dr. Brenda Hardin Abbott, Assistant Professor of English; Writing Program Director, read a selection from I Am Jazz, a story about the real-life experiences and transition of transgender advocate Jazz Jennings. Hardin Abbott expressed the importance of including this selection in the read out and why banned books should be recognized:
"The top five challenged books of 2016 all involve LGBTQIA characters, and that's why I felt it was important to read I am Jazz at the read out. When a book is challenged, a group wants to remove or restrict it from others, and in my view, books that portray diverse experiences allow children to see themselves and others who may be different from them represented in books. To remove books that tell the stories of LGBTQIA children is an effort to render them invisible. We can and should do better for all children."
Throughout the year, Bay Path holds themed read out events for the campus community focusing on groups such as women, the LGBTQ population, and many others. The events are a platform used to educate audiences on understanding and appreciating differences, while also challenging them to see a perspective outside of their own.