Tag Archives: Banned Books Week

Resources for Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week, which runs September 25-October 1 this year, draws attention to the issue of censorship and how it can best be combated. NCTE, through its Intellectual Freedom Center offers advice, helpful documents, and other support to teachers and schools faced with challenges to texts (e.g. literary works, films and videos, drama productions) or teaching methods used in their classrooms and schools. NCTE’s work to keep texts in classrooms and libraries provides a public service to members and nonmembers alike when they are facing challenges to literary works, films, and videos. Again this year, NCTE is also a proud sponsor of Banned Books Week.

The following resources explore ways to discuss censorship issues with students as well as ways to respond to text challenges in your school.

For a general introduction, visit this ReadWriteThink.org calendar entry, which links to classroom activities and online resources. Be sure to check out the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan “A Case for Reading – Examining Challenged and Banned Books“, which introduces students to censorship and then invites them to read a challenged book and decide for themselves what should be done with the book at their school.

The Language Arts article “Focus on Policy: Intellectual Freedom” outlines details on current banning incidents, the importance of selection, and suggestions for overcoming text challenges. The article includes sidebars that list additional resources.

The English Journal articles “Banned Books: A Study of Censorship” and “Celebrate Democracy! Teach about Censorship” include details on extended units on censorship. You’ll find a range of materials for exploring censorship in the classroom with the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan “Censorship in the Classroom: Understanding Controversial Issues“.

The College English article “Deflecting the Political in the Visual Images of Execution and the Death Penalty Debate” explores the visual images that readers are and are not allowed to view and asserts that “the attempt to suppress the visual, as in any censorship of the press, is an attempt to limit debate.”

Teacher educators can share “What Do I Do Now? Where to Turn When You Face a Censor“, from the NCTE book Preserving Intellectual Freedom: Fighting Censorship in Our Schools, with preservice teachers. The chapter provides scenarios and the related resources that K-college teachers can use as the basis for discussion and problem-solving role-playing. Preservice teachers might then use the detailed instructions in the SLATE Rationales for Teaching Challenged Books for writing their own rationales.

In the 21st century, censorship in the English classroom rears its head in some familiar and some unexpected ways. Read more in the Council Chronicle article, “Defending the Right to Read: A Modern Tale“.

How do you support the students’ right to read?

On Banned Books Week and Beyond, Say YA to Reading

Matt de la PenaEvery day in middle schools and high schools across America, teachers and librarians provide access to young adult literature for their students. These teachers are not just providing books for their students;  they are committing an act of love and courage.  Love for their students and courage in knowing they will bear the burden of constantly having to defend the merits of this literature to parents, administrators, and even other teachers.

This week we “celebrated” Banned Books Week with an emphasis on young adult literature. I always thought celebrate was strange verb to use for a week dedicated to bringing awareness to the insidiousness of censorship. But I think I get it now. We’re not just bringing awareness to the books themselves, but also to the brave souls who fight to keep these books in kids’ hands. This is a week to give high fives, fist bumps, and in the words of Matt de la Peña, bow down to those fighting the good fight.

And so we celebrate.

We celebrate teachers like Brian Wyzlic who, at his Catholic high school in Michigan, brings the faith of his school community into the conversation with parents about why he will not censor books in his classroom.

We celebrate students like Brady Kissel, who distributed  free copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian after the book was removed from a  school reading list due to parent complaints.

We celebrate authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, winner of this year’s Intellectual Freedom Award, who frequently speaks out against censorship:

“I worry about the teachers and librarians who are [in] danger of losing their jobs and I worry about the students being denied access to a good book that has saved lives… Book banners make me fight harder.”


As we close out this celebration of Banned Books Week, let’s keep saying YA to reading. Heck, let’s shout it. Shout it until it is no longer an act of courage, only one of love.

If you want to read more about the ways teachers are celebrating young adult literature in their classrooms, below you will see I have curated some tweets from our recent #nctechat on Twitter. Or if you’d like even more  you can visit the entire Storify archive here.

Say YA to Reading: #nctechat Preview

Say YA to ReadingBack in 2013, we began our monthly #nctechat  on Banned Books Week with guest hosts Laurie Halse Anderson and Teri Lesesne. We hope you’ll help us continue this tradition by joining us tomorrow, September 20th at 8 PM ET for #nctechat on Twitter. Our topic will revolve around young adult literature, which is the theme of this year’s Banned Books Week. The chat will be hosted by celebrated YA author Matt de la Peña and ALAN president-elect, Jennifer Buehler. Here’s a preview of the questions we’ll be discussing over the course of our hour together:

  • What do teens gain from reading YA in contrast to other kinds of literature?
  • Why do you think YA is so frequently challenged and often given less respect in schools than canonical literature?
  • Given the possibility of censorship, what factors do you consider when selecting YA titles for your classroom?
  • How do you attend to your biases and potential blind spots when selecting YA titles for classroom use?
  • What do you do to reach out to parents, colleagues, and administrators BEFORE a YA book challenge occurs?
  • How do we spread the message about the value of YA to parents, colleagues, and administrators?

We are honored to have both Matt and Jennifer as hosts for this important chat. Both are fierce advocates for young adult literature, as evidenced by the following excerpts:

Matt de la Peña

(The following is an excerpt from an interview on The Rumpus with Lilliam Rivera where Matt talks about visiting a school where his book, Mexican White Boy, had been banned.)

Matt de la PenaThe New York Times followed me into the school. And it was a crazy experience, because I thought I would find a bunch of Mexican American students who were deflated because this program, that was so innovative and proven to be helpful to many of those students, was taken away. But when I got there, what I found was that what this situation had done had created a generation of activists. They were picketing the school. They were going to board meetings. Chaining themselves to desks. They were really fighting for this program. And it was cool to see that it has given them something to fight for. But the thing that is crushing is that it is purely politically motivated. These kids were the ones affected.”

Jennifer Buehler

“Rather than simply waiting for criticism of YAJennifer and responding from a defensive stance, we can look for ways to educate our colleagues and communities about YA before criticism comes. We can engage in outreach that highlights what YA has to offer, why it’s so important in the lives of teens, and how a thoughtful YA pedagogy can help students break new ground as readers…I’ve come to believe that the way forward in conversations about YA is to offer a new vision for how we should be teaching reading and teens. While we have to begin this conversation with the books themselves and their inherent complexity and value, we need to talk as well about what we want our students to be able to do as readers and how they might accomplish these goals through YA books and YA pedagogy. In this way, the focus shifts from debates about the merits and drawbacks of specific books and toward the purposes and processes of reading. That shift in focus allows us to share with parents, colleagues, and administrators what students can do as readers of YA lit when they are given tools for finding and making complexity. When we explain the kind of work that’s possible with YA within this paradigm, we create an opportunity to get others thinking in new ways about the books and how we might teach them.”

We hope you’ll join us to start exploring the possibilities with YA in your own schools, libraries, and classrooms.

To learn more about censorship, intellectual freedom, and young adult literature, visit:
Banned Books Week
NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center
NCTE Guideline: The Students’ Right to Read
Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE
ALA Frequently Challenged Books List

Say YA to Reading

Say YA to ReadingWe hope you’ll join us this Sunday, September 20th at 8 PM ET for #nctechat on Twitter. Our topic will revolve around young adult literature, which is the theme of this year’s Banned Books Week. The chat will be hosted by celebrated YA author Matt de la Peña and ALAN president-elect, Jennifer Buehler. In the course of our hour-long conversation we’ll explore ideas such as:

  • Building teacher capacity for being proactive about censorship
  • Creating classroom environments where the hunger to read is omnipresent
  • The methods teachers/librarians use for selecting YA lit to put in their classrooms/libraries
  • How censorship is often linked with diversity

Check back in a few days for the full list of questions. Below you’ll find a glimpse into the way our hosts think about the critical role of YA literature in students’ lives:

Matt de la Peña

(The following is an excerpt from the NPR article “Sometimes the ‘Tough Teen’ is Quietly Writing Stories“)

Matt de la Pena“Today when I write my own novels, I try to craft the best possible stories, and I certainly aim to be entertaining, but I’m also conscious of the powerful function literature can serve — especially in the lives of kids growing up the way I did. My goal as a writer is to recede into the background, allowing readers to fully participate. I want them to be able to watch the characters and listen to conversations and be free to form judgments of their own. I believe it’s in this space that young readers acquire experience with complex emotions like empathy and sensitivity, which makes them more likely to be in tune with emotional nuance out in the real world.”

Jennifer Buehler

(The following is an excerpt from the Text Messages podcast, episode 30: Censorship and Your Freedom to Read)

Jennifer Buehler “When we censor kids’ stories, we teach them to go behind our backs.  To restrict access to a controversial book is to guarantee that many young people are going to make a point of tracking down that book.  Adults can welcome conversations that such books might foster, or they can send those conversations underground.”

We hope you’ll take this conversation above ground and join us for #nctechat this Sunday at 8 PM ET.

To learn more about censorship, intellectual freedom, and young adult literature, visit:
Banned Books Week
NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center
NCTE Guideline: The Students’ Right to Read
Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE
ALA Frequently Challenged Books List

Freedom of Information Day


Freedom of Information Day recognizes the Constitutional requirement that we have openness in our government. What that brings to mind in literacy teaching and learning is the critical importance of building our students’ skills to find, understand, and utilize information. That requires openness in our classrooms and learning institutions as well.