GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – Just inside the double doors at Schuler Books on 28th Street is a table full of classics like George Orwells animal farmHarper Lees Killing a mocking birdand John Steinbecks Of mice and men. Next to them are modern bestsellers like Suzanne Collins’s The hunger Gamesand Ibram X. Kendis Stamped and Anti Racist Baby.
Dozens of people stopped to view the display Monday, including the yellow “caution” tape that surrounded it.
“Each year, in the run-up to Banned Books Week and beyond, we host our Banned Books Week exhibit,” said Tim Smith, Operations Manager at Schuler Books. “It’s one that we always like to put up because the books are interesting and are books that everyone has mostly read or had some of.”
Smith and others featured over 30 books at their Banned Books Week display. It’s a week-long nationwide celebration of banned books running from September 18-24. According to the website, this year’s theme is ‘Books Unite Us’. Censorship divides us.”
“Banned Books Week has been around since 1982, which just so happens to be when our store started,” Smith said. “So there’s a long history of exposing people to books that have been banned or challenged and really bringing people together to celebrate this love of reading that we have and an inclusive look at trying to bring people together around the idea of the freer.” and open exchange of ideas.”
According to PEN America, a literature and human rights advocacy group, there are currently over 1,150 books that are either banned or challenged.
“I find it very dangerous to ban books. I think reading should be a freedom where anyone who wants to read can read what they want to read,” said Stacy Hieneman, browsing the store Monday. “I think they should demand [kids] read certain books? I think schools should have lists to choose from and parents can have their say on whether they don’t want their kids to read certain ones. But banning them and not having them in libraries and bookstores is crazy.”
Heineman said responsibility for what a child should or should not read should rest with the parents and be based on the child’s level of maturity. She has a teenage son who read past his grade level as a child. She remained engaged in his reading throughout his childhood.
“He asked questions, and that’s what we’re here for,” Hieneman said. “As long as you are involved in your children’s reading, they should not ban it [books] and they should be able to read them.”
Banned Books Week was celebrated not just at Schuler, but across Michigan, including Central Michigan University, the Novi Public Library and the Petoskey District Library.
Though the event runs through Saturday, September 24, Smith said they will be maintaining their exhibition beyond this week.
“Books are a great way to go to different places and have different experiences than your lived experience,” Smith said. “So it’s great to have this wide range of books that people can look at and choose from.”