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Banned Books Week 2017: Celebrating the Power of Words

By Alina O'Donnell
 | Sep 26, 2017

Banned Books WeekAlthough it’s easy to think that book banning is a thing of the past, even in 2017 censors are still making formal attempts to remove books from curricula, schools, and libraries. The American Library Association’s (ALA) list of Top Ten Most Challenged Books for 2016 demonstrates a clear shift toward banning diverse content— “things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities.”

When we remove these books from our bookshelves, we remove mirrors and windows that validate all kinds of identities and experiences. This year’s theme, “Words Have Power. Read a Banned Book,” celebrates the power of words to connect readers with diverse voices and viewpoints—even those some people might find offensive. 

The following resources prepare educators, librarians, and other literary liberators to promote and celebrate the freedom to read, navigate censorship laws, highlight the harm caused by book banning, and oppose challenges faced in their communities:

  • International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) reviewed eight of the children’s and young adult books that appear on the ALA's Top Ten Most Challenged Books list for 2016.
  • The National Council for Teachers of English offers advice, helpful documents, and other support to teachers faced with challenges to texts or teaching methods used in their classrooms and schools.
  • Produced by the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Book Censorship Action Kit provides basic information on censorship in public schools and details the steps that educators and librarians can take when facing a challenge.
  • The ALA provides a host of resources, including infographics, social media tools, classroom activities, and the Rebel Reader Twitter Tournament Toolkit of website banners, printable bookmarks, a coloring sheet, and suggested hashtags.
  • TeachHUB’s list of “12 Banned Books Week Classroom Activities” offers discussion questions, First Amendment lessons, debate templates, and other learning activities.
  • The Banned Books Week YouTube channel features videos of readers “exercising their First Amendment right to read a banned book.”
  • The New York Times compilation of “Ways to Celebrate Banned Books Week” includes lesson plans, infographics, writing prompts, and more.

Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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