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Banned Books—Complex Like the Students We Teach

Right now school boards around the country are thinking about restricting texts that contain passages that some see as violent, sexually explicit, or containing offensive language.

Alyssa D. Niccolini notes in her January 2015 English Journal article:

We have a tendency to want to protect the innocence—or the fictional image of innocence we hold—of the youth we’re teaching…The reality is that young people live in and read about—as we adults also did—a decidedly complex world where sex, violence, intolerance, and profanity are a reality.

127jpgShe goes on to explain why and how we should teach banned books “to engage a youth lens”:

Banned books provide an opportunity to reorient ourselves to topics that might give offence, particularly those that offend our ideas of adolescence. Banned books often raise topics that don’t yield easy answers, such as addressing racism, dealing with systemic or physical violence, or navigating the complexities of sex and sexual identities. Banned books are often complex, surprising, and confounding. They shake up expectations, challenge norms, and at times raise interminable questions. They’re complex and should be valued in our classrooms, like the adolescents we teach.