Did you say this book is banned? Now I want to read it even more! If you have read Harry Potter, Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird, or even Captain Underpants, you, too, are guilty of reading banned books. Believe it or not, celebrating Banned Books Week offers a great opportunity to help teenagers experience the realities of book censorship and deeply understand and reflect on the value certain books hold for different individuals.
Books offer their readers a unique window to learn about people and build empathy and compassion for others. Jason Reynolds, author of All American Boys and Long Way Down, says, “What does it mean when we say books unite us? It means that books can be the tethers, that books can connect human beings.”
Celebrating censored books is about honoring our right to read, but more specifically, it’s about keeping our shelves, and our minds, open to diverse content.
This year’s celebration (2022) is September 18 – 24.
Here are ten ways to celebrate it in your classroom this year!
#1) Start With the Why
Banned Books Week is a celebration of the banned books that are still available in most libraries, but there is a great deal more to understand censorship in general. To cultivate curiosity and put students in the driver’s seat of their learning, let them dive into some research.
- When did BBW start?
- Where does most book banning occur?
- What types of books are more frequently flagged today? Why?
- Why do we celebrate it?
Interestingly enough, the most recently banned books are tied to the LGBTQ+ community. If you’ve established a safe and inclusive community, invite students to dig into the reasons behind these book bans.
As students research, encourage students to make their own TBR list and jump into a banned book!
#2) Talk About Labels
Grab all the banned books you can from your classroom, school, or local library and cover them with a brown paper bag. Place them on display, but underneath the title, label them with the reasons why they were banned. Harry Potter’s label could say, “Encourages Witchcraft” or “Leads Children to Rebellion.” Label The Hate You Give with “Profanity. Violence. Drugs.” Label The Hunger Games with “Insensitivity. Offensive Language. Anti-Family. Violence.”
Let students choose – or not choose – their banned books based on the reason(s) they were censored.
#3) Give a School-Wide Banned Book Talk
Here’s a great chance to get your students involved with school announcements. Take your students’ research and knowledge of banned books and invite them to join in on the morning announcements each day and share the importance of BBW. Students could give quick reviews of books they have read that are banned or offer facts about different banned books or banned authors.
#4) Explore the Offerings of ALA
If you are looking for additional Banned Books resources, hop onto “Banned and Challenged Books: A website of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.” There are free downloads, lists of the frequently challenged books, infographics for classroom discussions, and even a Q and A.
One of my favorites from ALA is the Dear Banned Author letter-writing program that encourages readers to write (or tweet!) to their favorite banned authors. Information from the authors can be found on ALA’s website!
#5) Host a #SilencedStory Living Museum
A living museum is where the students become experts on specific topics and invite other classes, staff, teachers, and administration o listen to them discuss their topic.
In this case, your students could become a character from a banned book and discuss the difficulties they went through in the book and why others might want to silence their story.
Another approach would be for the students to become a banned author, a banned book, or even a genre of banned books.
#6) Get Creative with Advertising
Incorporate the arts and get creative with a digital commercial speaking out about banned books or bringing banned books to the forefront of school bulletin boards! Invite students to create a commercial or a school-wide billboard to bring attention to banned books or banned authors. Build the bulletin board out like a billboard for all to see!
#7) Make a Series of WANTED Posters
Students love a good wanted poster, and during Banned Books Week, they can create wanted posters for books or characters on the banned list. They can include the genre, the plot summary, the author, and of course, why it is being banned and “wanted” by others to read!
#8) Participate in the Stand for the Banned Virtual Read-Out
People across the world film themselves reading their favorite banned books and submit them to the Banned Books Week YouTube Channel. With parent permission, you can participate in your school or make your own version of a read-out!
#9) Write an Op-Ed Letter
Op-Ed letters to the editor are a great way for students to share their thoughts on censorship and freedom of speech. Not only do they get to express their opinion on an important issue, but they also learn about how to persuade others and make a well-reasoned argument. Writing an Op-Ed is also a great way to hone research and writing skills. This letter can be written to the school librarians, the town’s local newspaper, or the senator. Take it as far as you want!
#10) Start a Outlawed Book Club
If you find a good deal of interest in the censorship of books and an interest in reading more challenged books, why not start a book club? You can do this officially with your school building, or you can do book clubs within your classroom, providing choices for students to select what interests them the most!
Teachers have the power to inspire a love of learning and instill a sense of curiosity in their students. That is why it is so important to celebrate Banned Books Week! This annual event highlights the importance of freedom of expression and challenges censorship. By participating in BBW, teachers can send a powerful message to their students that they value diversity of thought and believe in the right to free speech. Additionally, celebrating BBW can help to foster a love of reading in students. They will see that there are no limits to what they can explore through books and that reading can be a source of enjoyment and knowledge.
How are you celebrating Banned Books this year? Drop a comment below, or find me on IG and let me know!