What do Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling have in common?

DC student Harrisson Pare-Pilon, 20, with his banned book project. Photo credit: Meagan Secord

A list of books banned in some jurisdictions might cause a few students to raise their eyebrows – including works authored by notables like Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling.

That’s why a Durham College professor had her students research the subject matter and produce displays on banned and challenged books in Canada and the United States.

Nicole Doyle, the professor who teaches a gen-ed course called From Snoop Dogg to South Park: Perspectives on Censorship and Free Speech, asked her class to research controversial books and put together posters displaying information for students as part of Freedom to Read Week in Canada.

Students produced about 20 projects to display Feb. 25 in Vendor’s Alley to educate passersby about banned books.

DC student Harrisson Pare-Pilon, 20, did his project on the children’s book I am Jazz, the story of a transgender child named Jazz Jennings.

The book was written by Jessica Herthel and co-authored by Jazz Jennings in 2014.

The book was banned from Rocklin Academy Gateway in California in 2017 after it was read aloud to a kindergarten class at a transgender child’s request, according to Banned Books Week.

“More exposure, more education and more books is the solution,” suggest Pare-Pilon, as a means of educating larger audiences about issues in the LGBTQ community.

Doyle says she was looking for an active approach with her class when she thought of the assignment.

“Being a librarian I thought we really need to do a project about banned books,” she says. “Then I noticed at a conference that ‘Freedom to Read Week’ coincided with the winter semester.”

This is the first year the class has done anything about freedom of reading and banned books but Doyle plans to grow the event for upcoming years.

“Maybe in the future, it could span other days but I think it would have to be part of something bigger,” says Doyle. “Like if the library got involved.”

Professor Nicole Doyle holding a banned book beside the Little Library. Photo credit: Meagan Secord

Books such as 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss were on display as being challenged and even banned in certain schools and places.

The event included officials from DC’s Little Library and Trish Johns-Wilson, a librarian for DC and UOIT.

“I think so often it’s simply a matter of perspective,” says Johns-Wilson. “I personally feel that if you’re uncomfortable with a book, sometimes that is the very book you should be reading.”