Western holds readings for banned books

By Ryan Heldenbrand

October 9, 2007

Readers, students, professors, and community members gath­ered in Kemper Recital Hall last Tuesday for the 11th annual reading of challenged and banned books. The list of books read includ­ed popular works such as The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Chocolate Wars by Robert Cormier. Some lesser known works read were The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende and The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar. Dr. Michael Cadden, who played a major role in organizing the event, believes it is important for people to be aware of challenged literature. “It’s an exercise in  freedom of expression and awareness build­ing,” Cadden said. The event was started in 1997 and people such as area teachers, newscasters and professors showed their support for the readings. Dr. Cadden asks these various people to choose a book they care about and read a passage from it. “My assumption is if somebody cares about a book, somebody, somewhere has challenged it,” Cadden said. There is no debate involved in the reading of the books, it is just an opportunity for people to give some background on a challenged or banned book of their choice and read about five minutes on any part they choose. A majority of the people who attended the reading were associated with Missouri Western. “It is surprising I think, though, that there are so few community people in the audience,” Cadden said, “I’m surprised sometimes at how little curiosity there is.” Dr. Cadden also thought it could be the level of advertising for the event as to why the community attendance was low. Jennifer Vermillion and Dr. Patricia Donaher were two of the eight readers. Vermillion is a Spanish and French teacher from Lathrop High School and believes chal­lenged books should be more available to people. “I understand people’s perspective, and I’m respectful of peo­ple’s opinion,” Vermillion said.  “I wouldn’t want to push books on people, but I am against the idea of making them completely unavailable to people.” Dr. Donaher is appreciative that Western does this because it gives the speakers a way to let people know why certain books have been censored “I really think it’s important we have some kind of an event where we make sure that the censorship issue is more well known,” Donaher said. Dr. Donaher also believes challenged books should be made more available to the public. “Parents should be the ones who tell their child they can’t read a certain book, not the librarian,” Donaher said. Freedom of expression has been an issue of much discussion on Missouri Western’s campus and the banned book reading is one way to use this freedom.