Marshall Hosts First Banned Book Trivia Night


Destiney Dingess, Student Reporter

People’s First Amendment right of free speech is being taken away by restrictions on who can read certain books, a Marshall University student at the school’s first banned book trivia night said.

“I think it’s up to parents to place restrictions on what their child can and cannot read,” Chloe Henderson, Marshall University student and future teacher, said. “It’s not up to libraries, it’s not up to schools or the government to say what you can and cannot read. I’m for permission slips in schools when reading triggering books with harsh topics. Parents should have more control than the government in that way.”

The banning of books has become more widespread these days as 1,145 titles were banned in 86 school districts across 26 states over only nine months between July 2021 and March 2022. In addition, the American Library Association counted 1,597 book challenges and removals in 2022, according to a report from PEN America.  

“Every September we do a banned books week to celebrate books that have been challenged because as a public university, we don’t support censorship of any kind,” Meghan Sexton-Harness, research and instructional graduate assistant at Drinko Library and host of Banned Book Trivia Night, said. “We support these books that have been banned, and some of them are very funnily banned.”

More well known, the banning of a book Harness has heard of is the children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”   

“It was banned because the author shares the same name as a Marxist author. The author did nothing; he just happens to have the same name,” Harness said.  

Banned books are what people are most familiar with while challenged books are less familiar.

“Challenged books are books that have been reported or complained about,” Harness said. “They are not necessarily taken away or out of the curriculum. Banned books are books that have generally gone through a library board or have gone through a state board and have been removed from shelves. A book can be challenged without getting banned, but we still celebrate those books as well.”

She went on to say, “‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was banned for having racial undertones and supporting racial segregation, but if anyone’s ever read the book, it is about racial segregation. But, in the way, it is saying it’s bad.”  

“A lot of this is unfounded,” Harness said. “I would say all banned books are unfounded, but their reasoning is rough. There’s a difference in saying elementary students should not read ‘1984’ versus we shouldn’t have that all together.”  

Meanwhile, Henderson said, “Having a banned book week is important because a lot of people might not understand what banned books mean and why censorship can, in the end, be detrimental to us.”   

“I don’t think any book should be banned because I think that when we start banning books, not only are we censoring but we are taking away information,” Harness said. “If we don’t read banned or challenged books, we don’t know what to look for. We don’t know the red flags. We aren’t learning about different experiences.”

She continued by saying, “I think that being more educated is never going to hurt, and that’s what books are there for. Whether they are storybooks or textbooks, whatever they may be, they are there to teach us something. I just don’t think that should be hankered with. We should be reading books, not banning them.”