From the Classroom – Celebrate Banned Books
Want to get your students fired up about books? Get them talking about banned books!
In honor of banned books week, I invited by students to take a closer look at some of the books that made it to this year’s list of the most challenged and banned books. This resulted in a vibrant and at times even heated discussion.
To start, I asked students to partner up and choose from a display of books that had either been challenged or banned in the last year. But before I released students to select their titles, we discussed the difference between these two terms together as a class. Once students realized the books on the back table were there because someone thought they were inappropriate for them to read, they were practically jumping out of their seats to make their selections.
On dry erase boards, they worked together in pairs to quickly use their book selection strategies to investigate the book and make a list of guesses about why it might be challenged. Guesses were surprisingly accurate and included reasons like bad language, racism, inappropriate pictures, and gay characters.
In an effort to provide some background on the issue, we read a recent article about the topic titled “Banned Books: Librarians Push Back Against Censorship“. As we read, I asked students to annotate the text according to what surprised, confused, challenged, or confirmed their thinking. We then discussed some of their key takeaways from the article: 1. parents are the ones challenging books, not teens 2. most challenges are because adults think real life issues like LGBTQ topics and racism are inappropriate for teens to read about 3. some books get banned without anyone even knowing about it. As we noted these takeaways the noise level in the room continued to increase because students couldn’t help but comment on how unfair or ridiculous they thought it was. One student even asked if we could hold a class-wide debate on the issue.
Finally, I capitalized on the incensed enthusiasm and asked students to join their librarians in pushing back against censorship. Students returned to the books they selected at the start of class and used a Marshall University website to research the actual reasons those books were challenged by adults as inappropriate for students to read. Then they came up with their own list of reasons why teenagers should read those books anyway. This week, their assignment is to put those reasons to read the banned book out there in the world in some way – create a social media post, a poster, a letter, etc. I am excited to see what they come up with.
How do you celebrate banned books week with your students?