Students learn value of the freedom to read
Students at Marshall Simonds Middle School celebrated their freedom to read during “Banned Books Week,” but their interest and passion for free speech and expression spans beyond a week-long timeline.
The week of Sept. 23 through Sept. 29, students received lessons from John Carroll, library media specialist, and Kelly Floyd, technology integration specialist, about the history of banned books. Students paired book titles with the reasons the literature was challenged or banned, participated in a “hunt” for hidden “banned books” throughout the school, and guessed the titles of three banned books that were shredded in the MSMS Learning Commons by piecing clues together, earning them free books to take home.
The celebration of Banned Books Week, a national campaign sponsored by several organizations including the American Library Association, was first rolled out at MSMS three years ago, and has seen much expansion due to high demand for more lessons and activities throughout the year, Carroll said.
Carroll explained some books have been banned or challenged in school districts or libraries for reasons ranging from violence or language, to “promoting witchcraft,” including books about witches or wizards, like “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, to texts including LGBTQ characters, like “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier.
“We also go into how books are often interpreted differently based on the personal beliefs of an individual, and how groups with different agendas seek to ban or challenge the same books for very different reasons,” Carroll said.
He said, “The way we see it, every book opens readers up to different perspectives and ideas. Restricting access to media simply because some individuals or groups disagree with its content or the message it conveys is harmful to society and more often than not further popularizes the works that they try to suppress.”
“Banned Books Week piques interest because it stresses the importance of keeping an open mind in regards to literary works, and the reasons why books are challenged or banned promotes a lively discussion among teachers and students. Reading books that challenge our personal beliefs and opinions is important as it encourages readers to keep an open mind and invites them to explore beyond their literary comfort zones,” Carroll said.
He said, “Learning about these books and why they have been challenged or banned is important because it encourages students to be advocates for free speech.”