Banned Books

Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. It celebrates "the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met" (ALA).

The Display

GRAFFITI WALL - Create a graffiti wall to promote the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.
  • Spray paint "Banned Books" on a bulletin board to resemble "graffiti" and present a feeling of something dangerous or illicit.
  • Display an image of a garbage can on the bulletin board. Add dust jackets of books that have been banned or challenged in the past.
  • Invite responses to the Graffiti Wall. Students are encouraged to “write” about their own thoughts and responses to censorship and banning.
  • Display a small collection of "dangerous" book in close proximity to the Graffiti Wall. Post a sign that provocatively exclaims, "Don't Read These Books." Wrap "banned books" in brown paper, print the title with accompanying cards explaining the challenged, and list a favorable review. Tape a card to each book.

PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL - Display Banned Books Week promotional materials, including clip art and badges, that are developed each year by ALA.

EXHIBIT - Censorship in Schools and Libraries, published by the Long Island Coalition Against Censorship, presents 32 illustrations of censorship each one approximately 11" x 14" with accompanying text. Included are descriptions of the censorship of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, In the Night Kitchen, The Catcher in the Rye, and the novels of Judy Blume and Chris Crutcher.





The following four videos, produced by ALA, are available from the Office of Intellectual Freedom

Introducting Banned Books

Brainstorm a definition of censorship.

Brainstorm ways in which things are censored for them already and who controls what is censored and how. Examples: Internet filtering, ratings on movies, video games, music, and self-censoring (choosing to watch only 1 news show or choosing not to read a certain type of book) .

Begin by polling students. Ask how many of them are familiar with the following titles:
  • Captain Underpants series
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Harry Potter series
  • The Higher Power of Lucky
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
  • In the Night Kitchen
  • Bridge to Terabithia

After the poll is completed, ask students what they think those titles have in common. Explain to the students that these books have been challenged or banned or that students’ access to them in school has been prohibited.

Brainstorm reasons these books might have come under attack. Identify the common reasons why books are challenged (language, sexual content, political incorrectness, religious content, etc).

Share presentation.

Provide students with a list of banned books.
Informally poll students to determine how many books from the list the students have read or heard about. Elicit their responses to the books on the list:

  • Did they find them to be entertaining, informative, beneficial or objectionable?
  • Can they suggest reasons why someone would object to elementary, middle school or high school students reading these books?

Facilitate a discussion:
  • Why do people object to books and try to have them banned?
  • Are there books from which students should be sheltered?
  • Why might a particular group or person want to protect a child from some of the ideas in the challenged books?
  • Why might it be important for students to read books that explore controversial or sensitive topics?
  • How might controversial books be used to break down stereotypes and bias?