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From blacklisted to celebrated: Banned Books Week

Let f 'read'dom ring! Banned Books Week is upon us again. How are you celebrating it?

Harry Potter book burning.  Credit: Getty Some churches held book burning when Harry Potter first came out.
Credit: Getty Images

An easy way to get kids to read a book? Tell them it was once against the law to read it. This week marks the 32nd celebration of Banned Books Week, a time whenlibrarians, booksellers, authors, publishers, teachers and readers come together as a united front to celebrate and protect the freedom to read.

Click here to see the most baffling banned books.

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This week presents a teachable moment for students to learn about censorship and first amendment rights. Here are some different ways Banned Books Week is being commemorated in classrooms:


  • Read and Respond: Pick a challenged or banned book and have your class read it, or just a passage of it, and then have converse about why people wanted the book banned.

  • Get Creative: Put students' brains to the test by having them create their own comic book or short story that celebrates the first amendment.

  • Clap for Characters: Have your students select a character from a challenged or banned book and have them either write up an essay defending that character, make a poster or actually dress up as the character.

  • Divide and Conquer: Split the class into two groups. Have one side explain why schools should be able to read challenged books and have the other make a case as to why the things students are reading should be approved by parents or the school board. In order to fully grasp the issue, they have to comprehend both sides of the argument.

  • Back to Basics: Devote a whole lesson to teach and talk about the five freedoms of the first amendment and notion of censorship. Then have the students write a few sentences explaining how they personally employ this right.

  • Turn the Tables: Have your students come up with a list of ideas to complete the analogy: A room without books is like... After have them create a poster or bulletin board that shows this analogy coming true.


History: Banned Books Week began in 1982 when it was founded by First Amendment and library activist Judith Krug. At that time there was sudden swell in the number of books that were being challenged within schools, bookstores and libraries. Banned Books Week always takes place during the last week in September and serves as a reminder to everyone of the importance of free expression of ideas as well as uninhibited access to information It is sponsored by groups such as the American Booksellers Association, Freedom to Read Foundation and the American Library Association.

Events: There are tons of ways to get involved in Banned Books Week all over the country. Here are a few:

- Virtual Read-Outs: Readers from New York to California can form local groups to take part in read-outs- a continuous reading of challenged/banned books- or connect their voices by making videos giving a shout out to the virtues of being free to read, which will come together on YouTube. (Contact Chris Finan at chris@abffe.org)

- Edible Banned Books Festival: On Tuesday, September 23 at Syracuse University people will be submitting entries of edible representations of various banned books. Yum!

-Designed to Deliver: As a class project students enrolled in the course, Psychology of Color, at the Fashion Institute of Technology are each designing a poster to educate students throughout New York City.

 
 
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