Why Penny Kittle Won’t Censor Books

This year, when you go back to school, take a lesson from Penny Kittle. Don’t stop at selecting the texts you’ll teach, go on to tell the adults in your students’ lives why you’ve selected those texts and why you have an open classroom library selection policy. Send home a letter like Penny Kittle’s Letter to Parents about reading and writing.

In her letter, Penny notes that reading is a great adventure, that it matters:

“The best books challenge our beliefs by helping us see through different eyes—to live a different life. For example, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult was wildly popular last year, but it is about a school shooting and I think we’d all rather believe that couldn’t happen here and don’t want to live the details. Yet reading allows us to confront our worst fears and live through them. Students love this book and I recommend it to them.”

Straight up, she tells parents, “I will not place a tight filter on what is read in this class and I’m asking for your support in this. I hope you will talk to your child about what he/she is reading this semester.”

She ends with

“If you sign this, it means you understand books won’t be banned in my classroom and your child will be allowed to choose what he/she reads.”

You sign, too.

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About Millie Davis

Millie Davis is Senior Developer for Affiliates, and Director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition she works on NCTE’s communications efforts, particularly on social media. Millie's passion is working with literacy teachers across the country and beyond whose passion for their students and their students' learning is their reason for going to work each day.

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