As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator. And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week. I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully! We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it! I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned. My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?” Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter. I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers. The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”
Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for. And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board. When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning. I loved it! This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.
We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment. Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not. Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning. It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness. And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!
To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers. As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them. It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!