NAMPA, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
Steven Navarro and AJ Kennedy, both seniors at Nampa High School, were among the first people to choose books at the Rediscovered Bookshop’s “Banned Books Giveaway” event at Flying M Coffee Garage in Nampa on Wednesday evening.
Navarro saw the Nampa School District Board’s recent decision to remove 22 books as censorship, and says the books provide exposure to a range of perspectives.
“These tell truly amazing stories that we’ve all heard great things about, and they include a broader audience,” he said. “To ban these books, it’s really horrible.”
“It goes against a lot of the things that I consider to be right,” he said. “People should be able to read the books that they want to read, and if you’re banning books, that just seems like a stupid thing to do.”
Each selected a copy of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Kennedy also picked out a copy of “The 57 Bus” by Dashka Slater.
Over 50 people were already lined up on the edge of the coffee shop’s parking lot to receive one or more books ahead of the 6 p.m. start time, and more trickled in. Volunteers held signs with photos of the banned books’ covers. People with Nampa school ID cards could get up to three books free while the books were also available to the broader Treasure Valley community.
Members of the public had purchased the books for the giveaway following the Nampa School District Board’s decision in May to remove the books from school libraries, as previously reported.
Rediscovered Bookshop, which has stores in Boise and Caldwell, asked the public to buy books to donate to Nampa students, teachers, and staff, as previously reported. The public purchased 1,250 books for donation in one week.
The books were initially flagged for review following complaints from parents about allegedly pornographic material contained in the books. The books were in the process of being reviewed by committees of parents, teachers, and staff when the board voted to remove the books “forever.”
The event was scheduled to run until 8 p.m.
Kasey Moulton, who graduated from the district in 2020, selected a copy of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Many of the books that were removed were titles she read in upper-level English classes, or checked out from school libraries, she said.
“If you’re not reading, what are you doing?” Moulton said. “I think I turned out okay.”
Books can be used as a tool to help people leave their comfort zone, Moulton said.
“My thought is, if you’re uncomfortable, you’ve learned something,” she said.
Maryanne Sedlacek retired from teaching at Sherman Elementary School about five years ago, she said, and attended the book giveaway Wednesday, holding book signs. In addition to helping readers see new perspectives, books help foster empathy for different people’s experiences, she said.
Sedlacek disagreed with the idea that books could harm students.
“I disagree with this grooming and stuff, (the idea that) reading a book is going to change who you are,” she said. “It’s not; it’s just going to let you express who you are.”
Brittany Celusta, whose two children go to school in the West Ada School District, brought them to the event to select some books. Celusta said they believe it is up to individual parents to judge what is suitable for their children to read.
“I just really don’t think that other people should be sticking their nose in my business and my kids’ business, and if my kids want to read something and they don’t understand it, then that’s my job to tell them,” they said.
One of the books Celusta selected for their child was “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris, a book for children about puberty, sexuality, and other topics. Celusta said it is important for their child, who is gender non-binary, to have access to learning materials that reflect their identity.
Celusta said that though the content and illustrations in the book have been labeled offensive, the drawings are mostly anatomically-correct illustrations of bodies and processes such as childbirth.
“Watching a baby come out ... that is perfectly normal, perfectly natural,” Celusta said. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this ... anyone who would be uncomfortable with that is kind of silly.”
The ultimate fate of the banned books is still unwritten. During the board’s May meeting, multiple board members said they wanted to pursue the creation of a more formal review process for challenged books. On Monday, the board spent part of a special work session discussing their previous vote, as well as plans for developing a challenged books process, as previously reported. Board Chair Jeff Kirkman said he would like to see a policy in place by the beginning of the school year, and that he expected some of the books that had been banned to end up back on library shelves.
Board Clerk Krissy LaMont said she plans to arrange a board work session in the coming months dedicated entirely to discussing the challenge process.
In addition to the giveaway event, the vote to remove books also sparked the formation of the Nampa Banned Books Fan Club, which has organized a read-in outside the school district administration building at 619 S. Canyon Street, Nampa) on Monday, June 13, at 6 p.m.
This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.
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