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A display of banned books. | Charles Hackey

February 9, 2022

Why Are Books Being Banned Across the U.S.?

Ask Students: Why are banned books back in the spotlight? Why shouldn't books be banned? Who is trying to ban them in the U.S.?

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Banned Books Lesson Plan: Why Is This Happening Again?

Recently, Texas and dozens of other states banned books deemed inappropriate by politicians and parents, although many have been in school libraries for years. Why are books—especially those about people of color and queer individuals—now being banned? Watch the video clip below from NBC News and use this banned books lesson plan to work through discussion questions and exercises.

Remote video URL

Key Term

Erasure: the removal of writing, recorded material or data.

Banned Books Discussion
  1. Do you think parents should have the power to keep students in their community from reading books?
  2. Record requests to 100 Texas school districts show almost 75 complaints from parent groups have been filed to remove books in the 2021-22 school year, whereas only one occurred in the 2020-21 academic year. What do you think prompted the increase in complaints?
  3. What does it mean for students of color and those who identify as queer to see themselves represented in books? Why would it be important for all students to have access to these materials? 
  4. Why is the erasure of queer individuals and people of color problematic for students being able to understand one another? 

Historical Connections: Harry Potter and the Upset Parents

Following a recent decision in Tennessee by a school district to ban Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust-based graphic novel Maus, a local pastor led a mass book burning, including titles like Harry Potter. Written by J.K. Rowling, the series is no stranger to controversy, and decades ago groups similar to the ones banning and burning books now attempted similar tactics in the face of the series’ rising popularity. Complete the activity below and answer the discussion questions

Activity: Then and Now

Examine and compare these two banned book lists from 2003 and 2020.

  • What differences do you notice between the two lists? 
  • Why do you think books on racism and gender are being banned now when they weren’t nearly 20 years ago? 
  • Several books on the 2003 list are no longer controversial; do you think the current set of books being banned will ultimately be accepted in the United States?
  • Why do you think Harry Potter is still viewed by some parents and politicians as controversial?
  • Why should books not be banned?
     

Censorship: Voices from the Past and Present

Read the following quotes from author Stephen King and Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. What do these quotes mean to you in light of the recent surge in banning books?

Censorship and the suppression of reading materials are rarely about family values and almost always about control, about who is snapping the whip, who is saying no, and who is saying go. Censorship's bottom line is this: if the novel Christine offends me, I don't want just to make sure it's kept from my kid; I want to make sure it's kept from your kid, as well, and all the kids. This bit of intellectual arrogance, undemocratic and as old as time, is best expressed this way: "If it's bad for me and my family, it's bad for everyone's family.

Stephen King

Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart

Do You Have a ‘Banned Books Club’?

Listen to or read this short interview with two members of a banned books club in Tacoma, Wash., and answer the discussion questions.

Focus Questions

  • Do you think it’s important to have books that depict other cultures and people who don’t represent you? Why?
  • Why are books banned? Do you think banning books will make them more popular? Will students be able to find others way to access these books?
  • Blanca Noriega thinks it’s the parents’ responsibility to help their children confront uncomfortable situations and how to confront other experiences that are not their own. Do you agree? 

More Resources: Diverse Books for Prek-12 Students

For children and adults alike, "seeing" people who are like us succeed encourages us to believe that it can and will happen for us as well. Having examples and role models is important not only because they enable us to visualize our possible futures, but because they also help us to define our place in the world. Learn more about the importance of diverse readings and culturally responsive teaching in this blog.
Andy Kratochvil

Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community.He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from American University

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