Talking to Middle Schoolers about Banned Books Week

How do you talk to a middle schooler about censorship?

It’s a great question, and I’m not sure that I have all the right answers. But I do know for sure that, as their brains develop at this critical age, the conversation needs to begin. As tweens are curiously studying the world around them and figuring out who they are, they’re sure to have questions about the books, media, and other materials that they see… and the ones that they can’t.

When one child is carrying a copy of The Fault in Our Stars but another isn’t allowed to read it, children notice. When a TV show has a content warning at the beginning, or censors curse words, children notice. When a patron is upset about a book being shared at a public or school library, children notice. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these things are bad –  it’s not my intention to share a post judging book censorship. Instead, I write to share that starting a conversation about censorship will not introduce it to your student for the first time. It will help to give a name and an explanation to many things that they are already seeing, and help to organize and guide thoughts that your child is surely already having. And, most importantly, it will open a dialogue with your child or students that will make them feel safe asking big, difficult questions about the world, and their place in it.

Below, you’ll find the slides that I used to start a conversation about Banned Books Week with my middle school students.These open-ended slides are have been tweaked and adjusted throughout conversations, and after many iterations, these are what worked best for us. My goal in starting a conversation about censorship was to stay as neutral as possible. I wanted to give them a full picture of what it means for a reader or family to challenge or ban a book, what that means for others that share the same library community, and a few of the familiar books that they might recognize that have been challenged or banned in the past.  The short slideshow also includes many questions without answers. In our class, these served as jumping off points for conversation and debate. As we wrapped up, I reminded students that there are no right or wrong answers about censorship. We honor the purpose and idea of Banned Books Week by asking questions, sharing ideas, and giving time and respect to all opinions and voices – especially those that are different than hours.

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These ideas are meant for sharing – if you see something that inspires you, bring it into your library or classroom! See the original Google slideshow here

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