As educators, most people are aware that trying to ban books restricts learning opportunities and can lead to closed-mindedness. So how can you take Banned Books Week, an event celebrating our right to read, and turn it into a learning opportunity in the classroom?
The first way to discuss this topic in your classroom is simply by discussing books that have been banned. You may choose to name popular books that have been challenged, or assign one of them to your students to read. Some examples of frequently challenged books your students likely know of include the following; Harry Potter, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Wrinkle in Time, and Bridge to Terabithia. Ask students why they believe these books have been challenged in the past. Explain the common reasons that books are challenged and start a discussion about if children should be sheltered from certain types of material.
Another great way to bring the conversation about banned books into the classroom is to hold classroom discussion. Bring in a list of questions and have a classroom debate. Ask students if they have ever been offended by a book, why, and if that means people should not be allowed to read it. Ask if it is ever ok to a ban a book from school. There’s so many things that can be discussed in the classroom.
You can also bring up a debate about the pros and cons of banning books from the classroom. This could be a classroom activity or an individual assignment. Have students create a Venn diagram, or a list.
This is also a great time to teach your students about the first amendment. Students have the right to read whatever book they choose, even if it is banned in schools. Explain censorship, what it is and what it is not. You can do this using a bulletin board, a classroom activity, or simply by lecturing.
You may also have students write a counter to banned books, explaining why a particular book has value in the classroom. This can be addressed to concerned parents or administrators. Whether these assignments are shared or not, it is a great way to get students thinking critically.
Don’t forget to look into community events being held in your local area this week as well. How do you teach your students about banned books? Let us know!