The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Blaine County Library awarded Grant from Humanities Montanan to fund Book Club project


October 10, 2018

On September 12, Valerie Frank, Blaine County Library Director, received notice from Kim Anderson, Director of Programs and Grants at Humanities Montana, that the Blaine County Library’s (BCL) application for a Big Sky Reads Grant had been approved. The $500.00 award will be used to fund the BCL’s book club project, Celebrating the Right to Read.

Big Sky Reads grants are awarded by the Montana Center for the Book, a program of Humanities Montana and the state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Its mission is to promote awareness of books, writing, reading, the book arts, publishing and literacy in Montana. Funding up to ten clubs each year, the Montana Center for the Book supports public book clubs in rural areas that engage in deeper, thought-provoking discussions about literature.

Celebrating the Right to Read is a book club project that will be facilitated by Dr. Donna L. Miller, a trained discussion leader, former Chinook High School English teacher for 26 years, and a college professor with a PhD in English Education.

According to Frank, “The name of our book club is Free People Reading Freely, and we plan to use some of the grant monies to purchase the Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2017 as a ‘starter kit’ since we will be reading books that appear on the Frequently Challenged Book list as published by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.”

Of the 416 books challenged or banned in 2017, the list below enumerates the Top Ten Most Challenged Books in that calendar year:

1. Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie

3. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

4. The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini

5. George written by Alex Gino

6. Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth

7. To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee

8. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas

9. And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole

10. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

“Our tentative plan is to hold our first meeting on October 15, at 7:00 PM in the Library’s Meeting Room, but more information will follow after we involve the library board, finalize the details, and develop some advertising,” Frank added.

The library’s application for the grant described the book club project as an extension of Banned Books Week, celebrated September 23-29 in 2018. Application materials explained how books are usually challenged with the best intentions--to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. However, these challenges represent acts of censorship and limit intellectual freedom, topics about which many have passionate opinions. For example, according to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas: “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”

Miller outlined her plan for Free People Reading Freely participants by saying, “During book club discussions, readers will share their titles and identify for what reasons the books are frequently challenged and whether they deem them worthy of that status. Each reader will discuss areas of the book that may create dissonance for some readers, quoting passages to illustrate. In addition, to explore merits of the book, readers will quote passages where life lessons or redeemable qualities—reasons to read the book occur. Based on this evidence, we will discuss whether the book is worthy of its objectionable status, and each reader will declare whether he or she would recommend this book to anyone, sharing a rationale.”

All book clubs supported by Montana Center for the Book contribute reading lists, discussion questions, event times, and more to the Big Sky Read’s Facebook group. Facilitated by Samantha Dwyer, Program Officer with Humanities Montana, these postings become a resource for finding new books and discussion points.


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