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 Feature Story
Banned Book Reading

BY RACHEL ERB

PHOTO BY RACHEL ERB

The students in Professor Carolyn Dyer's Law, Media and Current Issues class held a banned book read-out in the rotunda of the Adler Journalism Building in late September. Students presented from 16 books that have been banned in some schools and libraries throughout the United States. The banned books ranged from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" to Harper Lee's classic "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Also in attendance was The University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communication alumna Megan McFarlane (B.A. 2003) from the American Library Association (ALA) in Chicago. She is the Coordinator for The Campaign for America's Libraries.

According to McFarlane, the campaign is a public awareness project about the role of libraries in the 21st century. As the coordinator, she is responsible for assisting in the creation of public relations and marketing materials for libraries.

McFarlane took Professor Dyer's Law and the American Media course when she was a student at UI.

"The class really taught me a lot about the role libraries play in the community, which I found inspiring," McFarlane said. "The Banned Books Week project was my favorite part of the class; as such I have celebrated [Banned Books Week] every year since 2002. The class in large led to my interest in the ALA, and is a big reason why I applied [at the ALA]."

McFarlane actually prompted Dyer to do a student-lead read-out.

"This was the first banned book read-out I have done," Dyer said, "I was reminded of the idea by a message from [McFarlane]. She was planning to be involved in a read-out in Chicago a few days after ours."

Dyer also stressed the importance of the project as a reminder for Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom of speech for granted.

"A read-out is somewhat like bearing witness to the fact that books or words which have been banned are not harmful or dangerous to read, even out loud in public," Dyer said.

Student Nikki Aurelio (junior, Elgin, Ill.) presented George Orwell's "1984," which she read in middle school but said that this re-reading gave her a new perspective on the book and the importance of free speech.

"I couldn't believe how relevant the book is presently," Aurelio said, "The book is about a man's struggle for intellectual freedom and it is eerily accurate in today's society."

Dyer agreed saying, "I was pleased with the students' presentations. They often captured the irony of banning these important American classics, many of which they had previously read in high school or college classes without any of the consequences the book banners fear."

Because of the success of the class's read-out, Dyer plans to continue holding a read-out every Banned Book Week.




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