Which book character do you identify with the most? Why?
If you were wrote a book, what important life issue would you write about? Name one pivotal event you would include to help tell your story.
Every year, the American Library Association publishes a list of its Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books. Do you think the association should publish a list like this? Why or why not? And if you agree with the list, what kinds of books do you think it should include?
Judy Blume's books deal with coming-of-age issues that many people deal with as they mature. In the early 1980s, people attacked her books because they felt they were inappropriate. Do you think people would feel that way if she published these same books today? Why or why not?
- Invite students to identify and describe some of their favorite characters from books. As they do, record key descriptors on the board. Then have students summarize the main issues covered in each book. Make a separate list of those issues.
- As a class, divide the traits into categories such as age, gender or race. Do the same with the issues. For example, a book might be about friendship, loneliness or bullying. Challenge students to create as many categories as possible for each list.
- Point out that the information you just recorded represents the diversity and content they encounter when they read books.
- Have students select several age-appropriate books. Instruct them to identify the key traits of each character and to summarize the main issues in each book. Then have students tally the results based on the categories the class identified at the start of the activity.
As a class, evaluate the results to identify the traits and issues most often depicted in the books students read. Do the books reflect the diversity your students see in their local community? Do they cover the most common issues your students face? Encourage volunteers to share their opinions.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Prior to conducting this activity, select 10 age-appropriate books. Divide the class into 10 groups. Have each group examine one book. Rejoin as a class to tally and evaluate the results.
Divide the class into small groups. Have each group select three books. Review their selections to make sure there are no repeats. Then have groups examine each of their books. Rejoin as a class to tally and evaluate the results.
Divide the class into pairs. Instruct each pair to select one book. Review their selections to make sure there are no repeats. Give partners time to do a thorough analysis of their books. Then rejoin as a class to tally and evaluate the results. Challenge students to identify the types of issues that could land a book on a banned book list.
Divide the class into pairs. Then assign each pair to a decade: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, or since 2010. Instruct each pair to select a book published within its assigned time period. Review the selections to make sure there are no repeats. Give partners time to do a thorough analysis of their books. Then rejoin to tally and evaluate the results. Have characters become more or less diverse over time? Are the issues written about the same? As a class, discuss how societal changes could influence people's ideas about what is appropriate content in a book for teenagers.
Read this Smithsonian article to learn why curators and practitioners of the arts share a renewed focus on how culture and heritage shape who we are as Americans.
See the top 10 books in the American Library Association’s most recent list of most challenged books and learn why each book is on the list in this Smithsonian article.
In this Smithsonian Folkways lesson, students analyze and play (on guitar and drums) the traditional Afghan music played on the rubab and tabla. The lesson includes a discussion of the censorship of traditional music under the Taliban.
Lead your students on the path to self-discovery with this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Students examine genres of art and literature and then create a personal piece of poetry and a well-balanced, skilled collage representing their inner selves.
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines. Then they identify social injustice in their own communities through both traditional and hands-on research and design a solution for those problems.