We should have the right to think for ourselves;
these words, while simple, are the cornerstone for a unit on censorship that seventh graders have been exploring in Language Arts. In an age where finding truth can be difficult, helping students realize the power of thinking for themselves, gathering information, and forming their own opinions are powerful skills they are hopefully gaining.
From learning about books from their childhoods that have been challenged to reading books that have been banned from classrooms across the United States, seventh graders have been working hard on expressing their viewpoints through debates, spoken word poetry, visual art pieces, and action plans taking place throughout the Westside and West Seattle community.
One group of students decided to raise awareness about banned books by creating a website to share information and opinions on the books they have read.
We invite the Westside community to check out the school library for information; the little free library at the top of the stairs in the front of the school which now holds a few banned books with explanations; and the documentaries and websites that have been created to document journeys, which students hope to connect in blogs and on Westside screens soon. In the larger community, students have been writing formal letters to districts and libraries that are banning books; putting banned books in their local little free libraries, reaching out to public libraries to speak to librarians, and posting flyers around West Seattle to bring awareness, to name a few.
Did you like learning about banned books? "Totally. I think it’s important to learn about these things. If you don’t learn about these views as a kid then maybe you’ll grow up and think these books are totally horrible and maybe your kids won’t have the chance to read them. That’s a missed opportunity and some of these books discuss themes that are really important and that we all should all be talking about."
It has definitely been a few enriching weeks and seventh graders have really risen to the occasion to deeply examine censorship, develop their critical thinking skills on the matter, and share their thoughts with their community. The hope is, of course, that they leave this unit with a newfound understanding and skill set that can benefit them beyond the walls of their Language Arts classroom.
-Kendra Dixon, 7th & 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher