Opinion | Paul Olson: Sorry, that book has been banned | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Paul Olson: Sorry, that book has been banned

When I was in elementary school, I was a baseball fanatic. I would analyze the box scores, memorize all star stats and read any books and articles about my baseball heroes. I had a short attention span and credit sports with training myself to sit still and learn to love reading.

And so I was sad to read that the Duval County school district in Florida recently banned 176 books, including ones about baseball stars Jackie Robison, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron because the books mention these Black players had experienced racial discrimination. Such references could be in violation of a new Florida law and endanger teachers and librarians with a felony charge if they traumatize students by saying something negative about America.

Florida parents can now serve as book-banning censors if they file an objection about anything they dislike about a school’s curriculum or books, forcing schools to pull books from shelves for special scrutiny in order to avoid severe penalties. Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis lauds the new laws for promoting parental freedom, but the reality is this censorship deprives students of their freedom to an unfettered education and the right to read what they wish. We must protect freedom of speech and the press and not have politicians dictate what views are acceptable.

A Pen.org study in June, 2022 reported there were book bans of 1,648 unique book titles in 32 states affecting nearly 4 million students. The sponsoring politicians for this legislation are just pandering to voters who only want to expose students to a distorted view of America where there is no LGBTQ community nor a history of racism. Similar legislation that could have led to book censoring was proposed in 2020 in the Colorado statehouse but fortunately the majority of our state representatives put Constitutional principles before politics and killed the bill.

To meet future challenges today’s students need more information, not less. April 23 – 29 is National Library Week, a time to celebrate education and the joy of books. Treat yourself to a visit to one of Summit County’s three library branches. There is free internet, computer use, the newest DVDs, bestselling books, magazines, and downloadable audio and electronic books. The cost of living may be high in Summit County, but at the library you can count on free books, great service and a place to relax with no obligation to buy a cappuccino.

The North Branch Library in Silverthorne is temporarily located in the Bluebird Market while that library is undergoing remodeling and expansion. You can grab a coffee or lunch after your library visit. The North Branch construction project is well underway and scheduled to be completed this fall. The expansion is needed to provide adequate space for reading areas, children’s programs and study rooms as well as to update the 23-year-old building.

A significant portion of the North Branch funding is coming from individual and business donations. The generosity of Summit County citizens is needed to raise the additional $330,000 to reach the fundraising goal. For more information on the project or to make a donation go to SummitCountyLibraries.org/get-involved/library-foundation. There is even a video that lets you “walk” through the beautiful soon-to-be-completed North Branch Library.

The COVID pandemic caused substantial disruption to education in our nation, including in Summit County schools. Many children have fallen behind their grade level. Encouraging more reading can be a very effective way to help your child catch up. Sit down as a family to read for an hour every evening. Gift cards for books make great gifts for any occasion. There are many reading programs and fun clubs and events at the library for children and teens.

Andrew Carnegie, who funded the construction of 1,689 libraries in the U.S., truly believed that “a library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people.” The Summit County Library is a center for learning, entertainment and relaxation, where everyone is welcome. Check the website for the impressive schedule of programs for children and adults. There is even a Banned Book Club. I agree with Isaac Asimov, who said “any book worth banning is a book worth reading.”

Henry David Thoreau said, “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.”

The following books may not change your life, but I think you will be entertained:

  • “Station Eleven” — a superb science fiction about the next pandemic by Emily St. John Mandel
  • “Of Mice and Men” — often a target of censors and a  powerful classic by John Steinbeck
  • “Magpie Murders” and sequel “Moonflower Murders” — thrilling crime novels by Anthony Horowitz
  • “Sapiens” and sequel “Homo Deus” — our history and where we are headed by Yuval Noah Harari

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