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Common Read Spotlights Banned Books

By Samantha Boden

Cal State San Marcos students were buzzing with excitement on Sept. 12 as they gathered in front of Kellogg Library during U-hour to look at the different books on display and pick one up for free at the kickoff for the 2023-24 Common Read.

For the second straight year, the theme is banned books, which has become a hot topic in libraries across the country due to increasing censorship and restriction in recent years. According to the American Library Association, the books commonly targeted are ones that center around marginalized groups, particularly LGBTQIA persons and people of color. By highlighting these underrepresented groups, the Common Read will create a space for everyone to have a voice and share their thoughts on how the banning of books affects marginalized communities. 

The University Library holds the Common Read annually, providing students with the opportunity to select a free book and engage with the campus community through constructive discussions and activities that connect to the readings. With a diverse selection of five books to choose from that vary in genre, students can learn more about why books get banned and the important concepts discussed in these texts, such as issues relating to race, gender and sexuality.

“I am such a firm believer in the value of a liberal arts education and getting outside your comfort zone,” said Allison Carr, CSUSM’s academic transitions librarian. “Reading something you normally wouldn’t can open your mind to issues outside your personal experience and expand your knowledge on important matters in society.”

The five books selected for this year’s campaign include: 

This year’s Common Read is also finding its way into classrooms. To bring students into the conversation, the library is partnering with faculty to implement the chosen readings into their curriculum. Through class discussions and group projects, professors are spreading the message about banned books to their students and fostering an environment that encourages an open dialogue. 

“Talking about censorship through these assignments allows students to examine how it is intertwined with cancel culture and the overall timeline of banned books,” said Dominique Harrison, a member of the Common Read committee and a professor of General Education Lifelong Learning (GEL).

Harrison collaborated with Rosa Rodriguez, CSUSM’s outreach librarian, in selecting the picture book “Separate Is Never Equal.”

Students will have more opportunities to engage with the material and pick up a free book throughout the semester, as there will be four more Common Read events: 


Banned Books Week Activity and Giveaway 

  • Tuesday, Oct. 3, noon, outside Kellogg Library's third-floor entrance: Pick up a free copy of a Common Read book, participate in trivia and activities, win prizes, learn about censorship, and more.

Bilingual Storytime and Craft: ‘Separate Is Never Equal’ 

  • Thursday, Oct. 5, noon, Kellogg Library Reading Room (KEL 5400): There will be a reading of "Separate Is Never Equal" and a hands-on craft. Free copies of the book are available for pickup. All ages welcome, including kids.

Pride Center Book Discussion: ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ 

  • Tuesday, Oct. 17, noon, Pride Center: A discussion of the book "All Boys Aren't Blue." Free copies of the book will be available for pickup. You don't need to have read the book to participate.

Common Read Book Giveaway 

  • Tuesday, Nov. 14, noon, outside Kellogg third-floor entrance: Pick up a free copy of one of the Common Read books. 

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314