Banned Books Activity: A Stand Against the Ban

Across the school library, paper bags litter the shelves. An atypical sight, these bags are part of a statement to raise awareness of book banning and censorship. Each bag contains a book that has, in the past, been banned somewhere; lift the bag, and reveal the book (if one dares!). This is part of a program presented by the Unity Coalition in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, run by Warde’s own librarians.

The effort began when a book from the Fairfield Public Library was questioned for containing ‘inappropriate content’. It is one of many across the country under the microscope of watchful adults, wary of the content their children have access to. Book banning itself has a long and complex history, with even familiar titles such as Lord of the Flies or Harry Potter deemed controversial in many libraries across America. Warde’s Head Librarian, Ms. Selk, takes her responsibility to supply diverse stories seriously: “It’s important that multiple perspectives are available, and that every student can see themselves in books”. The books that a child reads can make them feel validated and safe, and can educate them about different perspectives. Without that, children can struggle to see outside of their own lived experiences. Book banning itself can also limit access to the truth, one of the country’s core tenets. Ms. Selk also notes, “Book banning can force biases on others, it can be a form of bullying, and it can promote prejudices”. She has created these activities for the Anti-Defamation League to ensure that Warde students are educated about censorship, as awareness is key.

In addition to the book bags, each English class will visit the library and participate in an activity regarding censorship. It’s designed to educate students about the reasons books are questioned, the process by which they can be censored, and freedom of information in America. Students will examine the reasons certain books were debated, determine the validity of the opposition’s claims, and ultimately decide whether or not they should be banned. All are also welcome to engage with the new Hot Takes board in the back of the library, open 24/7. It is available for anyone to write their opinion and hang up anonymously, in an attempt to foster discussion and healthy debate. The discussion will focus on how students think book and information availability should be handled in schools across the country.

Ms. Selk’s goals for the activity? She says: “I hope that students will come away with a better understanding of why it is important to have access to libraries and books that represent multiple perspectives and that all voices are heard”. In addition, the ADL approved the activity, and it will be counted as one of the school’s steps towards becoming a No Place For Hate School. The ADL deemed it impressive, and will share it with a curriculum leader. This opens the door to getting other schools to follow in Warde’s path. This groundbreaking activity will teach and inspire students to seek truth and resist falsehoods, something everyone here at Warde should hold in high regard.

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