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Oh Mother, Pleeeeze Let Me Read That Book! The United States Constitution and Banned Books

Author: Pat Mitchell-Keita-Doe


Tilden Middle School

Year: 2011

Seminar: Children's Literature

Grade Level: 8

Keywords: banned, books, constitution, History, social history

School Subject(s): English, Literature, Social Studies

When I decided that I wanted to study Children’s Literature this season I thought that it would be essentially storybook studies, until I realized that anyone who writes anything could possibly run aground of the law. That’s when I understood why many authors used pen names or emigrated to other countries in order to write freely. In many countries, even today, you might be taking your life in your hands to pen a book, an article, a poem, or any other written piece that those in power consider to be in violation of the established norms of that society.

My focus has always been Social History so when I am reading the work of different authors, I always want to know what or who was impacting the author at the time the work was penned. This makes it much more interesting for me and so it is from that standpoint that I wrote my unit. It is aimed at 8th graders but can be “unpacked” for 7th grade also.

Some of the readings are, as we used to say in my day, “deep” but if you apply the strategies I have outlined for you, the information can be digested by the students.

I enjoyed researching this work and I believe the students will enjoy it too. Therefore, if you will peruse Oh Mother, Pleeeze Let Me Read That Book! The United States Constitution and Banned Books, I’m sure you will see why I decided to make the connections between our First Amendment freedoms here and now, and the lack of them under other governments or even in earlier times here.

Download Unit: 11.01.09.pdf

Did you try this unit in your classroom? Give us your feedback here.

Full Unit Text

Since all law in the United States is based in the United States Constitution, it is imperative that we teach it to our students. Yet, I have seen it taught in such a way that it has no meaning for them. We, as teachers, have an obligation to teach this document to our students. We must find ways to help our students make personal connections to this document and to understand some of the ways it protects our citizen rights, especially to speak freely, write and publish freely, and, to read the ideas and words of others, whether we agree with them or not. However, these First Amendment freedoms are not absolute and our students need to know that too. In Shenck v United States 1919, where the “Clear and Present Danger Test” was established, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated, “The question in every case is whether the words are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent” (1). Justice Holmes then became “concerned about a rising tide of hysteria that could potentially impinge on free expression.” He argued for a broader interpretation of the clear and present danger standard, writing that speech could be punished only if it produces or is intended to produce a clear and imminent danger that will bring about …certain substantive evils that the United States….may seek to prevent” (2). In Gitlow v New York, 1925, Justice Sanford wrote “…..that it (the alleged charge) could constitute a revolutionary SPARK that could later result in a sweeping and destructive conflagration ……” (3). Hence, the “Bad Tendency Test.” So, applying that to the banning of Little Red Cap /Little Red Riding Hood: was Little Red Riding Hood going to induce the children to alcoholism?

Writing is a way to capture thoughts and ideas on paper. It communicates so beautifully, creating pictures in the mind‟s eye,bringing back memories, causing one to lose oneself in the author‟s work to list a few. In societies where there is no written language, it is up to the clan historian who is trained to embody, in his person, the history of the clans in the kingdom.(My people for instance, the Mandinka,of West Africa, have an entire clan whose purpose is to know the history of the entire clan/clans and are trained to “sing” that history for twenty four hours straight. They are the Jellies and I have had the opportunity to listen to their work.) When Patrice Malidoma Some, a native of Burkino Faso, West Africa, returned from his long sojourn at a French catholic missionary school, (after having learned to write) he astounded his people who thought that his ability to “capture their words from the air and place them on paper for others to read seemed magical: as I wrote, they watched, their eyes magnetized to the paper as if I were performing a miracle. They watched what they asked me to write take shape on the blank sheet of paper and were aghast as I spoke it back to them in bad Dagara” (3).

A friend of mine once told me that whatever I said in anger, I should not “put in writing” because it could come back and “haunt” me. Even today, most know that a phone call does not carry the same weight that “putting it in writing” carries. It creates a “paper trail”. And we all know of instances when it was too dangerous to pen a work under one‟s own name. So a “pen name” was adopted. Or, hide the message under a character in a novel, poem or prose.

Whatever the vehicle used, the point was gotten across and in some cases, has turned the tide of public thinking. Take Uncle Tom’s Cabin for example. Its first publishing sold 5,000 copies within two days after it hit the book sellers. By the end of the first year, 300,000 were sold in the U.S. and another 200,000 sold in England (4). Whereas, before many whites knew that slavery existed and somehow bought into the idea that it was a “civilizing necessity,” or were complacent about slavery, this book gave a powerful voice to the abolishionist movement. It was written by a white woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who put her anti slavery message in the form of a novel (5). She herself was not an abolishionist. The book was declared criminal, slanderous and utterly false (6). One bookseller in Mobile, Alabama was forced out of town for selling copies. Mrs. Stowe received threatening letters and a package containing a black person‟s dismembered ear. She wrote this novel in the atmosphere of the Fugitive Slave Act whereby white persons were compelled to help catch fugitive slaves, whether you agreed with slavery or not. However, once Uncle Tom’s Cabin was released, the effects were such that it helped turn the tide against slavery in the United States.

When students know the importance of writing and reading, they might begin to appreciate just how important it is to read the words and thought of others. In the words of American author Judy Blume, “But it is not the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read…as always, young readers will be the real losers.”

Many times students take for granted the freedoms of the First Amendment that we enjoy and assume that we have always had these freedoms or that once it was “signed off on” in 1787 that it just follows through till today. They don‟t realize that every year books get pulled from library shelves, yanked from bookstores or end up in front of a judge who will apply the law and deliberate basic questions: who gets to read what, when and where and, who doesn‟t. Sometimes literature is pulled because it “threatens national security.” The Alien and Sedition Acts, for example, made it a crime to criticize the government and the postal authorities during the Civil War, went about going through the mail to censor the content. Sometimes it‟s a moral issue: The Comstock Laws, based on morals (but whose morals?) ended up censoring the works of James Joyce and John Steinbeck, among others on the grounds that deemed them to fall in the “obscene” category.

During my unit students will place books in an historical context. How do the politics of the time affect whether or not a book “gets pulled?” Students will “become a book,” and speak as the book, tell its story to the class “court.” This unit will examine some of these issues. Students will look at books that were banned for various reasons and will analyze the ways in which the U.S. Constitution was applied to the removal or release of these books.

I designed these lessons so that teachers can unpack them and use them either singularly or as a larger body of study. The strategies I use to deliver the lessons are those which I have found make history “come alive” through interactive activities. I have included the “how to” of these strategies in the appendix.

The strategies are as follows:

  • Illustrated Student Dictionary – this helps the students to build their vocabulary through the use of imagery, color and their own words.
  • Experiential Exercise – this places the students into the “shoes” of the people/event they are studying. This is an excellent opener for your lesson and allows the students to empathize with the people of the time.
  • E S P plus C – this strategy was developed by Dr. Yohuru Williams. It allows students to think deeply and analyze the impact of documents, writings, events, etc. in historical context.
  • “I‟ll See You in Court” – This is a modified “Act It Out”which has students becoming the people (or in this case the book) studied. Because the students are now the subject being studied, they often develop empathy for that subject.


Getting students to read lengthy pieces of text can be problematic as is getting them to write more than two paragraphs. They often complain of being bored and seem disinterested. This is why I decided that I would connect Social Studies with Literature in this unit. I have to teach the United States Constitution and I wanted to find a way where my students could make a “conscious connection” to this vital document by capitalizing on their natural attraction to” bucking the system” in having them select books that at various times weren‟t supposed to be read or even known about. Now to be clear, the students don‟t have to actually read the books as there is plenty of background information, summaries and synopsis sources available which will give them a good feel for the book. My point in designing this unit is this: It‟s those “dangerous ideas” that I hope will capture student‟s attention, hook them and have them reading and writing more than a “brief constructed response”. For when students are interested in the material they often will assist each other in getting meaning from the text. This is the main reason I like for the students to work in groups or pairs. (However be mindful that when you assign them their partners that you don‟t match up two struggling readers but rather two with different reading levels. This way they can help each other to get the task done).

I believe that students should know that ideas are powerful, some so powerful that governments in many parts of the world imprison people for not only writing them but reading them, and in some cases just having in one‟s possession those ideas has put whole families‟ lives at risk. When a society begins to see evil lurking at the turn of every page, underneath a child‟s imagination and acts on that fear, its people will no longer be free to read, free to listen or free to write.

Our students cannot take these freedoms that we enjoy for granted. They have a civic duty to participate in society not only through the voting process but to be responsible participating citizens. Protecting intellectual freedom is crucial in a free society. After all, the American Revolution began with an idea.


Objectives for all lessons:

  1. Understand the role of Intellectual Freedom in the written word,
  2. Define the First Amendment. Understand how the First Amendment protects not only our right to free press but our right to read.
  3. Examine the Alien and Sedition Acts, 1793. Examine the Comstock Laws. Identify the author‟s purpose.
  4. Use a timeline to identify historical moments in which some books were written.
  5. Describe the social and political climate in which a selected book was written (home based assignment, see appendix).
  6. Understand how historical context impacts access to books. Identify reasons books are banned and who did the banning.
  7. Examine one Supreme Court case. Define Restricted Access Policy.
  8. Argue for or against a book‟s banning and evaluate the evidence presented.
  9. Apply ESP plus C strategy to selected writings (see appendix)

I will begin this unit with an “experiential exercise” which I learned from Teacher‟s Curriculum Institute (see appendix). This allows students to feel how an event might impact others by simulating the experience in a controlled space (classroom). I have placed it under Preview. This is the “hook” to get the students attention.

The lesson will then move into student research and placing authors‟ work in an historical context with the aid of a teacher made timeline. Students will use a variety of sources for their background reading and research and will conclude with writing one to two page summaries to be applied to the activity, “I‟ll See You in Court!” and other debriefing activities.

The second lesson will focus on censorship of authors and the reasons that their writing was either banned, challenged or censored.Students can choose which activity they wish to do from four different activities based on Gardiner‟s Multiple Intelligences.

The third lesson is a whole class activity which employs the work of Dr. Yohuru Williams. It is called ESP plus C which stands for: Economic, Social, Political and Cultural impacts or significance of a person, document, action or event (see appendix )

Classroom Activities

Lesson One


  • Define these terms: theme in literature, censorship, ban, author‟s purpose, First Amendment rights, Intellectual freedom.
  • Understand how the First Amendment protects not only our right to free press but also our right to read.
  • Analyze how restricted access affects some readers
  • Discuss how the banning of books affects readers and writers


Experiential Exercise: Write this prompt on the board: “I think mandatory wearing of uniforms for school is___________ because________________.

Collect the papers. Using tape, post all the “agreement” responses on the wall. In red marker write “Banned” on all the other papers and leave them on a table in clear view of the students. Tell the students that only those “approved” responses will get posted for a grade (circulated). As students why theirs couldn‟t get posted, explain to them that their response was considered “too risky.”

Allow students to continue to raise questions for another few minutes and then explain to them that over the years many authors have had their work pulled from libraries, school reading lists, bookstores, etc. because their work was “ too risky.”

Pick up the “Banned” responses and post them with the others.

Debrief The Exercise:

Ask students these questions: How did you feel when only certain responses were allowed on the wall? Did you feel that all responses were valid even if you didn‟t agree with them? Do you think it‟s fair to allow some but not others to be posted? Did you want to read what others had written? Do you think it‟s important to be able to freely read writings that don‟t necessarily reflect your views or that you may find offensive?

Write these words/terms on the board: censor, censorship, Intellectual Freedom, banning, Comstock Laws, Alien and Sedition Act, challenged writing challenged author, Communism, Red Scare, McCarthy Era, Herbert Hoover. Briefly discuss with or have students research what those terms and people mean. Ask students how they think those terms affect our everyday life.

Copy from your history textbook the First Amendment and its definition on the board. Ask the students to read it silently.

  • Working in groups of two – four, have students brainstorm why U.S. citizens need this amendment.
  • They should then restate in their own words what they read and discussed and illustrate their statements by drawing a simple sketch or symbol at the bottom of the page. Students may share out their discussion and sketches to the rest of the class.

Teacher Activity:

Construct a large timeline on the board beginning with 1787 and ending with 2011. You are only putting in key events and a very brief description of those events. Example: 1791 Bill of Rights becomes a law. Students will refer to this timeline throughout the unit to help them see what was “at work” when the books were written.

The students are then to research three important events that occurred during the year or just before the book was written, published, or banned, and document them on this timeline. Since authors do not write in a vacuum, students need to “see” the forces that helped to shape the climate in which the author was working. Students may not be able to actually read the book, or time may not allow them to, however, they can use web sites like “Spark Notes” which provide summaries of these works. This will also serve to keep the student‟s attention due to information not “dragging on.” These sites also can provide information about central themes of the selected book.

Assign Background Reading to Students:

Suggested readings can be found in Appendix A

Illustrated Student Dictionary:

Using a dictionary, students will define the following terms: author‟s purpose, intellectual freedom, censorship, First Amendment, literary theme. On a sheet of paper students will draw four equal columns vertically down the page. In the first column write the word /term on the top line. In the next column write the book definition. In the third column students define the word/term in their own words and in the fourth column the student draws a simple sketch of symbol of the word/term. This will enable the student to have a frame of reference when he attacks the reading. This is particularly helpful to students who are reading below grade level since “we think in images and color triggers memory “(Davidson). See Appendix A for template.

  1. Teacher writes List A on the board (suggested books) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, American Heritage Dictionary, The Koran, James and the Giant Peach, Little Red Riding Hood, Schindler’s List, The Bible, The Giver, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Nothing but the Truth, Harry Potter books, The Lorax, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Black Beauty, Diary of a Young Girl, Little House on the Prairie, Grapes of Wrath, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and The Outsiders.
  2. Repeat for List B: Maya Angelou, Lewis Carroll, Ray Bradbury, Upton Sinclair, Ezra Pound, Judy Blume, Peter Benchley, Stephen King, Benjamin Franklin, Anne Frank, Alice Walker, William Faulkner, J.K.Rowling, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, Dr.Suess, and Thomas Paine.
  3. Teachers will assign one book from List A to student pairs.
  4. Once students have made their selections they are to research to find out if their selected books were ever banned, censored or challenged. Their research must include:
    • Where and when the book was published?
    • Who is the author? What is the central theme or message of the book?
    • Does the book have any historical or social significance?
    • What was the economic, social and political climate at the time the book was written?
    • Who did the banning/censoring and why?
    • Did the banning/censoring trigger a court cases and if so, what was the outcome?
    • The students must then write a one –two pages summary of their findings on their book in autobiographical form. Example: “I am The Lorax. Today, I am a beloved children‟s book but in (date) _______I was censored because____________.”
    • Students then place their “little books” on the timeline. Have students look for trends; i.e. Do more books show up in certain years than others?

Activity: “I’ll See You in Court!”


60 popsicle sticks; 30 5×8 squares of blue construction paper; 30 squares of red construction paper; two armband sized strips of yellow construction paper; class set of white construction paper; glue; black markers.


  1. In black marker write “BANNED” in large letters diagonally across each red square.
  2. In black marker write “RELEASE” large letters diagonally across each blue square.
  3. Glue each square to a popscicle stick.
  4. On each strip of yellow paper, write “BOOK POLICE” in black letters. Cut strips so that two students can wear this as an armband. Make sure the words can be seen clearly.
  5. For the remaining students, each will get a sheet of white construction paper and they will write the names of the books they chose in black marker. They will hold these sheets in front of themselves when they go in front of the class to “tell their story.”
  6. Section classroom so that the “BANNED BOOKS” can be seated apart from the “SUITABLE BOOKS.” You may need to get more chairs and form this section prior to this activity. Place two chairs next to each other for the “BOOK POLICE.” Tell the students that they will now hold “Court.” They will become their chosen books on trial and the rest of the class will vote as to whether or not they should be banned or released. If banned, the “BOOK POLICE” will escort them to the “BANNED BOOKS SECTION” in the classroom. As they go in front of the class, they will state their name (of the book) and using the information they researched, will tell their story in autobiographical form as if they are the book (personification).
  7. Choose two students to be the “BOOK POLICE.” Give them the yellow armbands and seat them together to the side of the class.
  8. Give each remaining student one red and one blue popsicle/paper stick, and one sheet of white paper. Have them write their book‟s names on the white construction paper in black marker.


  1. Call the first “Book” and have the “Book” tell it‟s “story.” Refer to example above.
  2. When the “Book” is finished, direct the students to “vote” by a show of their “vote” sticks.”
  3. Tally the votes. If the “Book” is released, allow the “Book” to return to its‟ seat (library shelf, booklist, etc.) If the “Book” is banned, direct the “BOOK POLICE” to escort the “Book” to the Banned Book Section.

Debrief The Activity:

Bring class back together and ask these questions:

  • Why did you make the decision to either ban or release a book?
  • How did you feel when you saw the “BOOK POLICE” take a book away?
  • Would you have liked to read any of those books? Why or why not?
  • Can you find reasons for monitoring what is printed?
  • How do you feel about someone else‟s parent making a decision about what you can read in your school or library?
  • Did you hear of any actions that violated the First Amendment?
  • What if the author writes material that can cause someone to be hurt or injured, should the First Amendment protect their writing?

Differentiated Learning:

Students choose one of these tasks:

  • Create a “Picture Book” depicting what life would be like if everything we read had to be “approved” by the “BOOK POLICE.”
  • Create a list of questions you would like to ask of the people who wanted the books banned.
  • Develop a “front page news paper account” of one of the books. It should begin with, “EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT! ( name of book ) RELEASED FROM BOOK PRISON !” (Or vice versa).
  • Write an editorial essay about the banning of this book.

Create a test of ten true or false questions, ten multiple choice questions and one open ended question that you would give to students following this lesson.

Students now choose one from the following list of Supreme Court cases:

  • Island Trees School District v Pico 1982
  • Salvail v. Nashua Board of Education 1979
  • Sund v. City of Witchita Falls 2000
  • Rosenberg v. Board of Education of City of New York, 1949

Have them read the case, research the background of the case, and create a flow chart correctly ordering the events leading up to the Supreme Court decision.

Lesson Two:

“Censorship, like charity should begin at home but unlike charity, it should end there.” – Clare Boothe Luce

Working from List B in Lesson 1, have students select one author and then research the autobiographies of the authors they selected. Their research must include if their author was ever banned, challenged or censored.

Guiding Questions:

  • Where and when was the author censored, restricted or banned?
  • What was the author‟s response to the banning?
  • How many times has this author faced censorship (for instance, was James Baldwin‟s move from United States influenced by his writing or the response to his writing)?
  • Did the author challenge the censorship in court, if so, what was the outcome?
  • How did the publisher, bookstore or library respond to the challenge?
  • Did the author experience any difficulty in getting the book published due to “risky” content? Could the author‟s work be connected to any social, economic or political event or atmosphere at the time of writing? If so, how?


Students may choose:

  • Using the information you have learned about banned books, list five reasons books are censored.
  • Imagine three of these authors were at a social event. Create a “conversation” that they may have.
  • You are in charge of designing a large wall mural for the Free Library of Philadelphia.
  • You want to include some of these banned books. How would you depict them in your mural? Using color, produce an 8.5 by 11 scale drawing of your mural.
  • Research numbers of books published in the U.S. in any given year. Determine the percentage of books that were banned in that same year. Graph your results.
Lesson Three

Censored Authors in Other Countries and Our Own

“Ferdinand the Bull who just wanted to smell the flowers was apparently going to seduce the children into being Communists or Pacifists”  – Pavel Gurov, Nottingham, Maryland


  • Examine the Alien and Sedition Acts, 1793
  • Define Comstock Laws
  • Understand intellectual Freedom in the written word
  • Use a timeline to identify historical moments in which some books were written
  • Understand how historical context impacts access to books.


In this lesson students will examine some case studies of authors who were imprisoned for writing works deemed subversive or threatening to their governments. Students may be surprised to learn that in our own country (United States) with our Constitution and First Amendment rights, American writers labored under the Alien and Sedition Acts which consisted of four separate laws. It is the fourth and last law that concerns us here: An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes against the United States enacted on July 14, 1798. Thomas Jefferson, then Vice President of the United States denounced it “as invalid and a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Bill of rights,” which protected the right of free speech, and a violation of the Tenth Amendment.(7) He also drafted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions denouncing the federal legislation. Remember that our Founding Fathers did not like the idea of “big government” since they had suffered under King George (big government). This was NOT what they had intended to happen, for states to give up their sovereign rights. The “Federalistdominated state legislatures rejected Jefferson‟s position through resolutions either supporting the Acts or denying the ability of Virginia and Kentucky to circumvent them” (8). The Acts were never appealed to the Supreme Court. Judicial review did not come about until Marbury v Madison in 1803(9). The 1798 Court was “composed entirely of Federalists, all appointed by Washington” (10). There were prosecutions under this act. Twenty five people were arrested, eleven of them went to trial, ten were convicted of sedition, and one died while awaiting trial. Again, all the judges were Federalists (11).

Most teachers are familiar with Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, who also was a Patriot during the War for Independence. This was a very dangerous thing to do: to write and have published this sort of literature (Common Sense) during colonial unrest. This act against the Crown was positively suicide for had Britain prevailed, he, along with George, Ben and Thomas (to name a few) would have been tried for treason and probably hanged. Under the Alien and Sedition acts Benjamin Franklin’s grandson accused George Washington of “incompetence and financial irregularities,” and the “blind, bald, crippled, toothless, querulous ADAMS” of nepotism and monarchical ambition (12). Mr. Bache was arrested two weeks prior to the passage of the Sedition Act (the Act had not yet been signed by the President) on charges of common libel. He never made it to court but died of yellow fever awaiting trial (13).

It wasn‟t just private citizens who were arrested and charged. An Irish born congressman, Matthew Lyon from Vermont was indicted for an essay he had written in the Vermont Journal whereby he accused the administration of “ridicpomp, foolish adulation and selfish avarice”(14). Locking him up did not silence him. He continued to write. His defense of unconstitutionality was denied and he was sentenced to four months in prison and a $1,000 fine. The voters reelected him and he returned to Congress upon his release (15).

I have lived in this country all of my life and have always believed that I could speak my mind. I have always written and read whatever I chose. Our students grow up with that same feeling, a feeling of being “Free” But it has not always been so for Americans and many others.

Often times we never consider what a writer may face when she or he decides to pen a novel or become a journalist. Until I did this research, I had not considered this either. I just thought it was a “great read.” However, after reading the case histories of writers who endured unimaginable treatment at the hands of their governments, including torture and death for perceived “seditious” writings, I began to take a closer look at what they were writing and what kind of governments were imprisoning them. In many of these governments, not only is the author in peril but also his/her family members or others who may try to help them. Below are five writers who were picked up and detained by governmental forces. Their stories are indeed worth reading. Their stories can be found at (PEN AMERICAN CENTERNovember 15, 2007 Day of the Imprisonment)

  • Fatou Jaw
  • Sam Wei
  • Ali Al-Domaini
  • Yaghoub Yadall
  • Normando H. Gonzalez

Whole Class Activity:

  1. Students choose one book from the list.
  2. Using the definitions of the Comstock Laws and the Sedition Act, determine which of these definitions would be applied to the selected book.
  3. Determine the year the author and the country the book was written.
  4. “E S P plus C” that book. (This technique was learned from Dr. Yohuru Williams, who developed this strategy. As applied to this unit, it is a highly effective way to get students to think deeply about the conditions that created the climate in which the author was writing. Broken down to its components, the students will examine the economic, social, political and cultural forces that were at work when the book was written OR the book‟s economic, social, political and cultural impact on people, places, things, events, etc.) Question would be posed as follows:
    1. What is the ESP plus C of the book The Grapes of Wrath? Possible response: The Grapes of Wrath was written in 1939 during the “Dust Bowl Years.” A family trucks its way to California looking for work (economic – describe that impact). The family faces hostility in migrant camps from others who arrived before them. The local people are afraid and angry at the flood of newcomers and even refer to them as “Oakies” (social – describe that impact). The camps are government run but the police plan a raid. Tom later begins to organize a union (political – describe that impact). Finally, what is the cultural impact of The Grapes of Wrath on……?

This can be discussed in small groups and will also engage the students in group research. Break up the groups and have some research the economic, some the social, some the political and some the cultural. Give the students two days to gather their information which can then be shared with the rest of the class.

  • Determine the author‟s purpose in writing this book. Is the author affected by the ESP plus C climate in which he/she lived/lives?
  • Research whether or nor the country of origin has a constitution or laws that protect free speech, writing, publications, etc. and find out if those legal provisions were violated and why.
  • After students have completed their research have them create “movie posters” advertising the writer‟s story as if a movie has been made about it and it‟s “coming soon to a theater near you.”
  1. http://legal-dictionary.the Bad tendency test
  2. http://legal-dictionary.the Bad tendency test
  3. Bad tendency test
  4. p.148,Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. Malidoma Patrice Some.
  5. narratives
  8. Sedition_Acts
  9. ibid.
  10. p.50, A History of Us : The New Nation 1789-1850, Joy Hakim
  12. en
  13. ibid
  14. ibid
  15. p. 307, Creating America, A History of the United States.


Due to the difficulty finding ample reading material on banned and challenged books in textbooks I have provided “suggested” readings which I gleaned from the web. Many of these are suitable for printing out and distributing to students who will find them as interesting as the teachers do.

Annotated Teacher Bibliography/Resources

“The New Monopoly Game: The Big Story in Book Control.” Feb. 1999, Szterpakiewicz,Mary Short article on Barnes and Noble‟s merger with Ingram that some say threatens to control the marketplace of published ideas.

“Customs Censors Seize Irish Myths and Hellyer‟s Books as „Hate‟ at B.C. Border Crossing.” May6, 1998. Short article on seizure of 98 different books and tapes by Canada‟s Customs Censors

“The Horrors of Electronic Diversity.” May 12, 1997. Zehr, Edward. Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century

“Island Trees v Pico” The site listed below is the Supreme Court Media site which also lists other cases that might be of interest American Library Association. This site is a treasure trove of court cases, First Amendment rights, and First Amendment rights for minors, etc. This organization features conferences, events, awards, grants, and other valuable resources all geared towards advocacy issues. Member driven.

Malidoma Patrice Some, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. G.P. Putnam‟s Sons, New York,1994

Yohuru Rashied Williams, Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook: Six Investigative Strategies 5-12. Corwin Press, American Institute for History Education, 2009.

Student Bibliography/Resources

Linda Monk, The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution. Stonesong Press, 2000. This book is an analysis of the U.S. Constitution. Ms. Monk writes in a way that makes it easy to understand. Great for students and teachers alike. An enjoyable read.

Kyleen Beers, Holt Literature Resources for Elements of Literature. Holt McDougal, 2007 List of Author Biographies for middle and high school. Currently used by the School District of Philadelphia.

History Alive: The United States Through Industrialism. Teacher‟s Curriculum Institute, 2005. One of my favorite history textbooks. Information is “chunked” so that students get a “plate full of food” as opposed to an “appetizer.” Readability levels- 7th and 8th grades.

Hakim, Joy. A History of Us, Book 4. Oxford University Press, New York, 1995 Winner of the 1997 James A Michener Prize in Writing. Another of my favorite history texts. Ms. Hakim writes history as if she‟s telling a story. Highly entertaining; history as literature. Great art work and sidebars. Free Speech Online Blue Ribbon Campaign. This is a blogging site to protect free speech by listing other sites one can access across the internet The Online Books Page Presents Banned Books Online. This is a University of Pennsylvania website. I have used it over the years and found it helpful when I wanted to read but didn‟t have access to an actual book. For me, this became my “e-book” years before e-books were available. And it‟s free. PENAMERICANCENTER. This site is a watchdog/human rights advocacy center for writers which keep actions against writers and their case histories in the public eye lest they disappear in the night.…/news-lifestyle-arts-entertainment.html Nifty site run by the Wall Street Journal. The books section has articles which are printer friendly thereby providing reading material for the class. However, only limited time is allowed for access. So if you see something that interests you, print it before the free trial ends. A wonderful resource broken down by time frames chronicling U.S. history. Although the focus is on African Americans, you get a lot of American History as well.




Reading Critically in All Content Areas

Quality of Writing


Reading, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

Speaking and Listening

Social Studies:

Historical Research

Individual Rights and the Common Good

Role of the Courts in Resolving Conflicts in U.S. History

Speeches and Writings that Impact Civic Life

Historical Analysis and Skills Development


Experiential Exercise (A TCI Strategy)

Select the topic you wish to study. Think of the event and the people involved. Within your classroom recreate the situation using the students as the key players. For instance, here‟s an experential I did some years ago as a preview to colonisation. I asked a collegue unknown to the students to help me. When the students came back from lunch they found that I had rearranged the desks. They were now in a circle. My collegeue was standing to the side of the class and I was at the front where the students could see me. When they entered the room they didn‟t know where to sit as the desks were now in a circle.When they asked me, I looked to my collegue. She told me and I then told them. The students began to mumble about who was really in charge here. I let them. One student flatly refused to obey and was asked to go to the classroom next door. All of the students were confused. After all were seated (they were still grumbling), I passed out a paper telling them that this was a lesson preview to the topic we would be studying. I then had them to put their desks back. Next I held a “debriefing” by asking these questions:

  • How did you feel when you entered the room and saw the desks in a circle?
  • What did you think when you asked me, your teacher, questions and I asked someone whom you did not know?
  • How did you feel when you saw me take my direction from her?
  • Did you think that Ms._____ word held the same weight as mine?

You know what points you want to get across to your students. Develop your questions accordingly and accept all responses. By having them go through a mock-up of the actual topic, students develop empathy for those who lived the experience. Always debrief whenever you do this.

ESP plus C – (Economic, Social, Political, Cultural Impacts on…) This strategy, developed by Dr. Yohuru Williams, employs higher order thinking skills and is great for getting students to think deeply and write about events/places/people in context. For instance, you might pass around a copy of the book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, ask some students to find out what economic impact did this book have on the slave holding community. Ask some to do the same for social, political and cultural issues.They can then share their findings with the rest of the class.

Illustrated Student Dictionary (A TCI Strategy)

This is a four column page designed to increase student acquisition and retention of vocabulary/ terms and concepts.The use of color increases memory. It is a “go to” in my classes as it helps students to break down and explain meaning. I keep colored pencils in the room for students to use when they create their picture/symbols.