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?