Spent this week’s lessons talking about banned and challenged books, as it was National Banned Books Week (September 25-October 2). After discussing this photograph of a wonderful library display which I right-clicked from a Pinterest page (I’d love to know who created it so I could give this person due credit!) I discussed more contemporary banned books, such as the Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Divergent series.
I also set up this display:
to illustrate what would be missing if the books on this cart were actually eliminated from the library. I believed that the students were clear I was the ADVOCATE for open and free information and access. I had them take their (sometimes vocal) sense of indignation, and write me a response to the idea of either censorship in general, or the removal of THEIR favorite children’s book on the banned and challenged lists. Not everyone made this connection, so I got a few threatening messages about “taking away their Junie B. Jones.” (I did not, nor would I)
By the time I’d taught this lesson to the fifth class or so (I teach these lessons to 25 4th-6th grade classes in a week) I realized I needed to physically remove the CAUTION tape. They needed this sense of closure.
Here is the article I had them read for further information:
http://www.factmonster.com/spot/banned-kids-books.html (“Fact Monster” is a great elementary level online database.)
And here are some of the most insightful responses from 5th and 6th graders.
“Books are banned to protect others, frequently children, from difficult information. Adults don’t want their children to be scared. I think that children should be able to read those books. These books boost up their imagination.”
“The witchcraft (in Harry Potter) seems reasonable because they are all witches!”
“The reason given why Harry Potter books were banned is because, ‘It promotes witchcraft.’ Just because there is witchcraft, does not mean people will take it seriously. Also, it said that Harry Potter sets a bad example. I disagree. He only does things for the good of the school and his friends.”
“If you banned Harry Potter, you might as well ban all the other books. If you WERE to ban Harry Potter, I would come and find you and do something quite unpleasant. Your Harry Potter loving student…”
“I don’t understand why The Wizard of Oz is banned because women play the main roles! That is criticizing all woman and also, I mean seriously, banning the book because it had a witch in it because of the fake witch burnings! Women who were healers got burned for no reason!”
“I think…some of the boys I know act just like the Lion, Tinman, and the Scarecrow. I do understand that in earlier days women were not treated well.. but that is stupid.
“I think ‘The Hunger Games’ shouldn’t be banned. ‘The Hunger Games’ may be about some type of murder but it isn’t real and I don’t think people understand that! This isn’t ever gonna happen and parents should tell their kids if they read it that they won’t do what happens in this book, and that it is fake!”
P.S. If your children end up being advocates for first amendment and open access to information , it wasn’t me. They came ready to fight 🙂 It was quite glorious.