Banned Books Week

Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California

Banned Books Week
As Observed In A Middle School Library

From: Alexandra Natsios <>
Date: September 19, 2008 7:35:21 AM PDT
Subject: [ha-Safran]: Banned books week

I love the ALA’s Banned Book week and incorporate a lot of their material into the work I do. As an attorney, I am eager to educate our students about the freedom to read. (When I speak to 5th & 6th grade parents at Open House, I tell them that students are free to check out any book from the library. If a parent is concerned I ask that they send a letter specifically to me.)

In the past I have: A. Put a sign on the library door about Banned Book Week (sometimes the pledge from the ALA website) and then draped the library doors in:
1) brown paper with wide red tape cutting across (as per the “forbidden”/ “censored” materials)
2) draped the doors in black fabric
This usually elicits students tentatively opening the doors asking if we are open for business; or questioning if we are under construction—Then my colleague, Jim Kemp or I will point out the notice on the door about Banned Book Week, and after reading the notice, the high school students get the message. The MS students usually need a bit more discussion about challenged and banned books. All are invited in to use the library where we have other displays. Wrapped “Challenged” and “Banned” books in brown wrapping paper with a red tape running diagonally across the cover. On the inside of the book I have typed up (and covered in plastic to increase their longevity) reasons why the book was challenged or banned. I have about 20-30 books covered and displayed in this fashion and invite students to open the book, see the title page and try and figure out why the book was challenged or banned. Most are shocked to learn that the book is even in this category and surprised to find out they have read a challenged or banned book.

A presentation to the entire Middle School during our assembly period. I am not good with power points, and my daughter actually helped me put this together. I have modified it over the years. I have incorporated a lot of information from the ALA website and made slides of challenged and banned books which I have put into a power point. Of course, many of the books have been read by our students, and the authors are known to them, so students are always surprised to see their favorite author or book featured.

Last year I read the first few paragraphs Susan Patron’s book The Higher Power of Lucky and asked if the kids could tell why the book had caused controversy (only a few students who had actually read the book were able to answer). Then I spoke about Ms. Patron’s eloquent Newbery Award acceptance speech at the June 2007 ALA Convention, and how she had to deal with the media, as well as other (librarians!) questioning her use of the word “scrotum”! I showed the “Banned Book” presentation I have created.

Made a bulletin board display with colored photocopies of the covers of challenged and banned books; I explain the difference between the terms “challenged” and “banned”; Some times I include newspaper articles on this subject, or photos of book burning, etc.

I signed up to give a presentation on the 26th in preparation of Banned Book Week, but I was just told that I may have to re-schedule due to a guest who is visiting for the day, who will be addressing the Middle School Assembly.

Alexandra R. Natsios
Middle School Librarian
Poly Prep Country Day School
9216 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11228-3689
718-836-9800 ext. 3570

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