WHAT?! I am not allowed to read that?

By Jacqueline Higginbotham, Lead Media Specialist, White Oak Middle School, New Caney ISD

Artwork courtesy of the
American Library Association,

At the TxLA Annual Conference in 2017, I may have stalked Alan Gratz and attended every session where he was a panelist. Pretty sure after day two of seeing my face several times, he started avoiding me (just kidding, maybe). I had just recently read Refugee and had been telling anyone who would listen how much I loved it. He was happy to talk about Refugee (and his other books), but he was promoting Ban This Book, which I had not read. So, I promptly I ordered it and read it within a week of getting home from TLA.

It was such a great read, and it is a great introduction to talking to students about banning books. I love how Amy Anne starts her own banned book library out of her locker and it grabs the interest of many students that are secretly reading her books. As a middle school librarian, I would venture to say that most of my students don’t know that there are books that get banned (and/or challenged) until I tell them about it. And, of course, some are surprised and appalled at the books that make the list. There’s no better way to promote a book than to tell them that some libraries don’t have that book because it was banned! 

The American Library Association Banned Books Week website has some great resources as you gear up for Banned Books Week September 23-26, 2018. I always try to pull books from the lists (and/or print the covers of the books) and create a display that stays up for several weeks. Those books definitely circulate more when students know that there is someone out there that might not want them to read it. Whether you are creating a display or teaching a lesson or finding other ways to generate conversations about censorship and banned books, I hope you will celebrate literature with your students and take advantage of some of the resources that ALA has to offer.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association,

This is also a great time to check and make sure your school district has a policy in place to review books that are challenged. If not, you may want to start some conversations about how to get that policy in place. And, if you do have a policy, make sure you know where your Request for Reconsideration forms are -- and have them ready if someone questions the books sitting on your shelves.

If you want to know what books are being challenged, check out the 2017 Most Challenged Books List.


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  2. I always do a display too! I love the conversations that come from the display. Here's mine for this year: https://twitter.com/amstigerlibrary/status/1041779348364304385

  3. Jacqueline, Thanks for sharing this connection to Alan Gratz's book Ban This Book. I wasn't aware of it. When I served as a high school librarian, I collaborated with ELA-R classroom teachers to collect as many of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books as possible. Students worked in small groups to read book jackets or skim to determine (infer) why they thought a particular book had been challenged or banned. Then, they conducted research to learn more. This was an enlightening lesson for students and educators alike.

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