Kelly Coleman

Challenge to Stephen Chbosky’s "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Hadley Jr. High
Glen Ellyn, Ill.

How did you hear about the book challenge in your community and why did you take action?

I heard about the book challenge as I was a teacher in the Literacy Department at Hadley Jr. High. At the time, I was finishing up my coursework to be certified in Illinois as a School Library Media Specialist. In the collection development courses, we discussed book challenges at length, and studied the ALA’s Library Patron’s Bill of Rights. As a teacher, a student advocate, and a future librarian, I felt I must do my part to stand up for the academic and intellectual freedom of our students.

You can get books at the library or store, why should we care about a book being removed from one class of students or one community?

Once a book is removed from a classroom or community, the information provided to the members of its society is filtered. Then the question becomes: Whose values, beliefs, philosophies get disseminated and whose do not? This is such a slippery slope, bringing to mind the history of many oppressive societies, such as that in Nazi Germany. Another issue is that I believe a public education should provide children access to a variety of materials reflective of diverse viewpoints. Censoring materials not only deprives students of the ability to make educated choices about their own beliefs and values, but also places value on one group’s beliefs over another, making the educational environment inequitable, and quite possibly hostile.

Why do you think being aware of book challenges or bans is important to our country today?

Whenever someone’s individual rights have been infringed upon, it is important to bring it into the spotlight. Without awareness of book challenges or bans, would-be oppressors have more freedom to subject others to their personal, religious, or political agendas. By bringing awareness to banned books and book challenges, we are able to support each other in promoting intellectual freedom as a global community

Who inspires you? Who is your hero?

My heroes are Harry Potter, Scout Finch, Mr. Darcy, Katniss Everdeen, Pip, and Huckleberry Finn, as well as the writers who created these characters who have been my friends, my teachers, my hope, and my creative muses. I am inspired by my great-grandmother, my NaNa, who did not receive much of a formal education, but who kept a dictionary on her kitchen table so that she could learn to be a better speller and communicator. I think of the sacrifices of the generations who came before us, and how my NaNa with her dictionary was really a model of a lifelong learner. If she had been exposed to the ideas and information available to our modern-day students, there is no telling what she could have accomplished.