From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please welcome Donna Miller, a K-5 library teacher from Norwood, Massachusetts! She’s got some lively ideas to help us kick off Banned Book Week.

Donna Miller

Banned Book Week is a fun week in my elementary library each year. I read a few picture books that have been challenged and have the students guess the reason. Each year produces similar guesses, but I usually get an interesting reason or two as well. 

Most students think that Sylvester and the Magic Pebble should be banned because Sylvester isn’t wearing any clothes. Or, in the case of The Stupids, the title has a bad word in it. 

We then discuss the difference between banned and challenged and I try to get my older students to imagine a world without A Light in the Attic, Harry Potter or James and the Giant Peach

At the end of the lesson, I remind them that, in my library, they are encouraged to read but the choice of what they read is up to them.  

I ask them, “If you borrow something that you don’t like or is contrary to your beliefs, what should you do?” “Return it and pick out something else” they drone.  I always offer the suggestion that if they find a book they don’t think is appropriate for our school, to let me know. 

For a few weeks following this lesson, an occasional book will be brought to my attention. (Poop:  A Natural History of the Unmentionable and Guinness Book of World Records are two popular ones) We chat about it, and almost always the book goes back on the shelf.

So, it surprised me one day, many months after the lesson, when a fifth grader brought a book to my attention and told me he thought it should be banned. In a very adult-like manner he told me he read it twice, gave it to a friend to read, and after a quick discussion, they determined it should be taken off the shelf. Not having read the book myself, I told him I would read it and let him know. 

Turns out he was right. It is a story for a more mature audience and I will pass it on to the middle school library teacher. When I relayed this information to him, his eyes lit up. I think he is looking forward to borrowing books from his new school next year.

What a great role model you are for your students, Donna; I can’t imagine how empowered that young man felt to have an adult listen to his thoughts and not only respect them, but act on them. Thank you!
Readers: you can follow Donna on Twitter: @DonnaMiller44; and find her here on Goodreads.