If you’re conflicted too, this Q&A resource is for you.
I support intellectual freedom and the freedom to read in my library, of course. But how can we begin to have the important conversations about intellectual freedom, censorship, and the freedom to read in one short week? How can a display or a flyer or a poster ever hope to convey all that there is to convey to the important stakeholders in my school, least of all to students?
In my first three years as teacher librarian, I avoided the provocative, visually appealing Banned Books Week displays that are popular on social media because I told myself that more substantive intellectual freedom instruction was the way to go. But all that has yielded is a series of one-shot, text-heavy displays (often coinciding with homecoming week) that bored, confused or flew right past my 8th and 9th graders. I’ve struggled to find the best way to address the complex questions and concerns that percolate in our community, and while I’ve been spinning my wheels, opportunities for collaboration and learning have slipped by.
In short, I’ve realized that Banned Book Week cannot be the first and last conversation I have with my students or my school community about the freedom to read.
So I’ve gone back to the drawing board, and I’ve developed a clear learning goal: As a result of year-round, interdisciplinary instruction on students’ rights and responsibilities as citizen-readers, students will understand their rights and responsibilities, and they will apply their understanding to conversations, debates, and actions in their classes and in their reading lives.
Whew. If that’s the goal, it’s no wonder my displays haven’t done the job.
This summer, Kristin Pekoll, Assistant Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, and I started working together on project that began in my mind as “Talk to your stakeholders week:” an invitation for librarians to talk with their administrators, teachers, librarian colleagues, parents, and students before Banned Books Week, laying the groundwork for substantive community-wide understandings about intellectual freedom. Our idea has grown beyond the confines of a week, and this year–not just this week–I plan to take my place as a leader in our school community’s conversations. Every stakeholder group has valid concerns and unique perspectives to bring to the table, and I’m committing myself to setting the table.
Just in time for Banned Books Week, Kristin and I would like to share with you a Q&A resource for starting conversations about intellectual freedom with our teacher librarian colleagues. In the coming months, we plan to create resources to support our conversations with each group of stakeholders, but for now, we hope that this resource will jump-start conversations in our PLCs and PLNs so that we can all work toward intellectual freedom instruction that goes beyond a week of celebration.
And please, add your feedback, suggested resources, and experiences in the comments below to help us continue creating resources to put Banned Books Week where it belongs: in the center of a robust, comprehensive approach to intellectual freedom education throughout our learning communities.