Banned books are a perfect opportunity to get your male children or students to read great classic literature.
Did you ever wonder why your adolescent child, who poured over his picture books and beginner reading books as an elementary-schooler, suddenly disdains reading fiction? Here are some possible reasons: popular culture tells him that reading novels is not cool. The publishing industry doesn’t market very many books with male protagonists. Boys prefer reading for information; they like non-fiction, low-brow comedy, comic books, and magazines.
More parents, educators, librarians, and activists, such as Jon Scieszka and Getting Boys to Read founder Mike McQueen, recognize gender-specific ways to help boys love reading. However, I don’t see schools ditching their standard English curriculums to make way for, I admit, radical changes. Huckleberry Finn will still be taught. And, I think, it probably should be!
But, might the high school freshman male find Huck Finn more enticing if he knew it had once been banned?
Getting Parents on Board
Recommending “banned books” to middle and high school aged students is a risky business. Teachers run the risk of offending parents. Incorporating a “banned book” unit into an English curriculum takes careful planning and strategy on the part of the teacher or librarian. It’s a good idea to send letters home to parents
(the earlier the better) explaining why you’re introducing a banned book, how you hope it will get students interested in reading, and what other activities you will incorporate into the curriculum.
Adolescent boys just can’t help it. Perhaps it’s the hormones: they are intrigued and easily seduced by the subversive. That sticker that tells them they must be eighteen to buy certain music? It’s like drawing a moth to a flame. Rated R movies? More interesting than PG-13. A parent tells you NOT to mix fire with aerosol hairspray? Boys have a need to find out what will happen if they do. Banned book? Gotta open it and find out why.
Taking Advantage of the “Banned Book” Label
Parents and teachers can easily take advantage of boys’ questioning natures to get them interested in reading a “banned book.” Take the title of Marshall District Library’s
page about banned books: The books the adults don’t want you to read
. Why? What could be in this book that would make a bunch of adults want to censor it or ban it from libraries and classrooms? They will want to investigate, because boys are, by nature, inquisitive.
A parent might, for instance, purchase a book knowingly from the “banned book” display at the local bookstore or borrow one from a similar display at the local library. Later on, he could say to his child, “I got this book for you, but I’m concerned because I found out it has been banned from several school libraries.” The parent could then accidentally leave the book where his son might happen to find it, sneak off with it, and (it has been known to happen) read it.
Banned Book Resources
There are a lot of great resources out there that help teachers create interesting, relevant lesson plans that involve the use of banned books. The American Library Association
has ideas and resources that help libraries get celebrate Banned Books week. Readwritethink.org
has lesson plans and activities to use in the classroom. Check out LessonPlanet.com’s347 Banned Books Lesson Plans.
Want to peruse a list of books, past and recent, that have been banned in the U.S.? Go here.
Banned books that have male protagonists or themes:
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- A Day no Pigs Would Die by Richard Peck
- Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling
- How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- The Witches by Roald Dahl
- The Goats by Brock Cole
- The Watsons go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
- Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers