In honor of Banned Books Week, my student assistants and I created a display of books from our school that the American Library Association (ALA) lists as appearing on their Frequently Challenged Books page. One of the things I like most about this display is the conversation it generates among students. Situated just inside the library entrance, it entices many students to stop and discuss the books there with each other or with me.
They question many things about the display. Have you read this book? What is Banned Books Week? Did we ban these books? Why was this or that book challenged? Can they check out the book? Who decides which books are banned?
I respond with my own catalog of questions. Have they read the book? Did they find anything objectionable? How would they respond if they heard an elementary school student read the book? Based on the graphics on the display, what can they conclude about why books are challenged? Who should decide what people read? What dangers are there in banning books at any institution?
I'm enjoying both my interactions with the students and witnessing their interactions with each other around this topic. Their comments and conversations are as varied as they all are. They range from whether or not they liked the book to insightful commentary on society, propaganda, and life in general.
For more information on Banned Books Week, click here.
A student recently asked me what I was reading. I assumed she meant what novel did I currently have going, but the sad truth is, I don't read like I used to read.
Growing up, I used to read at least a book a day. I started my day reading cereal boxes and milk cartons and followed that with books on the bus both to and from school. When I got home, I'd change my clothes, grab a book, and head out to what passed for a barn but was really more of a three-sided shelter and hay storage. When I hit seventh grade, I discovered James Michener's very wordy Centennial (I read anything about the Old West in those days) and that book took me almost a week. I gave up my book a day habit in favor of my new love for epic stories.
I've gone through other cycles in my reading. After the classic Dick and Jane readers, I discovered mysteries. I read all the Nancy Drew books and started on The Hardy Boys. When I was done with those I started with Agatha Christy mysteries followed by gothic mysteries. I went through a horse phase, reading both fiction and non-fiction books on horses and put myself on the public library's waiting list for the Black Stallion mysteries. I discovered historical fiction and read Civil War, numerous European periods, more James Michener, Native American stories, and more.
I no longer read a book a day unless one counts the short children's books I read to my son. My daily reading now consists of book reviews, board minutes, curriculum standards, trade magazines, blogs, texts, and endless emails. I still make time for novels, but don't usually manage more than one a week.
So what am I reading? Everything. But the novel on my bedside table is The Dead Will Tell, a crime thriller in a series set in Amish country.
What are you reading?
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