This lesson provides an opportunity to discuss the history of literary censorship and how discrimination might affect which books are banned from certain libraries and institutions. Before beginning this activity, collect a variety of banned books for students to peruse.
Give each student a book. Do not immediately tell them why the book was banned. Ask them to look at the cover of the book and the illustrations and to read the title page and first chapter.
Have students speculate on the reason(s) each book was banned. Once students have shared their thoughts, reveal the reason traditionally given for limiting access to each book. Discuss these reasons using the following questions as a guide:
- Are there valid reasons to ban books?
- Do the reasons listed for banning your book seem valid to you? Why or why not?
- Is age-appropriateness a valid reason?
- What benefits, if any, are there to banning a book?
- What harm, if any, is caused by banning a book?
Allow approximately 15 minutes for discussion. Throughout the discussion, record the reasons you and your students provided for banning the books. Have students divide the reasons into categories. Divide the students into groups and assign each group a category. Ask each group to create a poster, a PowerPoint presentation, a drawing or some other visual that explains the category, the reasons some people find the category to be a valid reason to ban books, and the reasons some people find the category to be an invalid reason to ban books. Remind students to think about the role discrimination might play in the banning of books.
For a list of historically banned books, visit bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica.