UHV faculty, staff draw attention to banned books through virtual event

Beloved literature characters Scout Finch and Captain Underpants do not share much in common except for one thing – both their stories have been challenged or banned in certain communities.

The University of Houston-Victoria Library is hosting events this week for students and the community to help raise awareness about national Banned Books Week.

Jaena Manson

“Banned Books Week is an opportunity to let people know how censorship still is happening today,” said UHV Instruction & Outreach Librarian Jaena Manson. “Censoring books can really affect everyone but especially those who do not have control over what they can read, like children.”

National Banned Books Week takes place annually at the end of September to celebrate the freedom to read. Books that are challenged or banned typically have content that an adult or parent deems inappropriate or offensive. The top three reasons cited by the Office of Intellectual Freedom for challenging materials are that they were considered to be “sexually explicit,” they contained “offensive language” or they were “unsuited to any age group.”

The UHV Library is having a Virtual Read Out, where faculty and staff record a short video of themselves reading from a book that has been challenged or banned. Each day this week, a new video reading will be uploaded to the UHV Library channel on YouTube.

Participants this year include:

  • Chanel Hicks, UHV health educator
  • Michael Wilkinson, senior director of Student Services and Judicial Affairs
  • Nicole Eugene, assistant professor of communication
  • Carol Klages, associate professor of education
  • Jesse Pisors, vice president for advancement and external relations
  • Kira Mudd, director of alumni relations and annual giving
  • Saidat Ilo, assistant professor of political science
Chanel Hicks

Hicks said she wanted to participate in the Virtual Read Out because there are books that are banned that have characters dealing with health and mental health issues, such as suicide. Since September also is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, Hicks chose to read a passage from the book, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” which tells the story of why a high school girl decided to end her life.

The excerpt from the book emphasizes the power of a compliment and the importance of people expressing how they feel.

“There still is a stigma surrounding mental health and the belief that if you do not talk about suicide, then it doesn’t happen, which isn’t true,” Hicks said. “We need to promote a culture that is more aware of and accepting of others needing a space to admit that they are struggling. It is important for people to know that it is OK to reach out and ask for help.”

Another event for the week is the Blind Date with a Banned Book. Several books that have been censored or banned will be available this week to check out at the UHV Library, located in UHV University Commons, 3006 N. Ben Wilson St. The books are on display on the second floor of the library, and each book is wrapped in brown paper with only the genre and the reasons the book has been censored or banned written on the front.

“There were so many interested faculty and staff this year who wanted to participate in the Banned Books Week Virtual Read Out, and I think it just goes to show that people who work in higher education want to empower students to read,” Manson said. “Books touch our lives and affect us in different ways, and all people should have the freedom to read and experience books that can change their lives.”

To watch the video playlist for the UHV Banned Books Week Virtual Read Out, go to YouTube and search ‘UHV Library’ or watch the videos on Twitter or Facebook by searching ‘UHV Library.’

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Amber Aldaco