Vanderbilt to launch Banned Books Initiative with reception, panel discussion

Recent policies and legislation across the U.S. have made the reading and teaching of banned books even more difficult in K–12 classrooms and libraries. To help the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities navigate these changes, offices across Vanderbilt—including Peabody College’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Department of Teaching and Learning, the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, LGBTQI Life, Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries and the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity—have collaborated on a Banned Books Initiative featuring a series of events, including reading groups, offered throughout the academic year. The initiative will kick off during the nationally recognized Banned Books Week, Sept. 18–24.

According to the American Library Association, “Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For 40 years, the annual event has brought together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”

The first event in the Banned Books Initiative will be a reception for K–12 educators and Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff on Monday, Sept. 19, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Mayborn 117. The event offers an opportunity to network and meet with others who are interested in navigating the challenges of making banned books more accessible to students, teachers and community members. Parnassus Books has generously donated several banned books in support of the initiative, and attendees will be entered for the chance to win a banned book at the reception.

The second event will be a panel discussion on Wednesday, Sept. 21, from noon to 1 p.m., in the Central Library Community Room. The panel discussion will include Emily Pendergrass, associate professor of the practice of literacy education; Matthew Shaw, assistant professor of law and assistant professor of public policy and education; and Brianna Newhouse, current Vanderbilt student and future teacher. Information about monthly reading groups and their facilitators also will be provided.