Because our Scholastic Book Fair is being delivered on Tuesday next week, we celebrated Banned Books Week early this year. I was able to meet with every ELA classroom in our school, which means I taught all of our 1,400 students in one week. That was a huge task and accomplishment! This year, I used station rotations in order to celebrate our freedom to read, to think, to question, and to learn.
What is Banned Books Week?
"Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries...It highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular."
What did we do?
Check out my Instagram Stories for how I set up these stations! The station explanations are added below - all you need to do is use books you feel comfortable using for your age group.
For what we did last year, visit here.
Reading is a fantastic way to celebrate and ponder on who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going. Books also add valuable insight to help us gain greater understanding of cultures and experiences different from our own. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I have pulled together a new list of books that celebrate Latinx heritage, culture, and identity. For last years list, visit here.
My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come?
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
From her clothing style to her favorite music to the zines she makes, Malú is a true punk kid. When she moves with her mom to a new city, she finds out that her interests make her a misfit at her new school — but she won’t let that faze her. An inspiring story of a girl fighting for self-expression, and navigating the challenges of making new friends, having parents in different states, and learning to love her heritage and identity.
Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics features a wide range of lyrical biographies of notable Latinos. With vibrant illustrations and tight free verse, Lopez and Engle profile figures ranging from César Chávez to José Martí, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, and beyond.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
*For Young Adult Audience*
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Your perfect Mexican daughter? That’s not Julia. That was her sister, Olga. But Olga died in a terrible accident, and in the wake of that tragedy Julia’s imperfections are even more magnified, especially where her mother is concerned. As Julia sets out to learn more about the person her seemingly perfect sister really was, she begins to unpack the complexities of family pressure, expectations, cultural identity, stereotypes, and the search for one’s own identity.
*For Young Adult Audience*
Us, In Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre
Puerto Rican author Lulu Delacre writes 12 short stories about what it means to be Latinx in the U.S. today. Readers will meet a young girl who spends the day on her father’s burrito truck, two sisters working together to change the older sister’s immigration status, and more. Short stories are often the just-right thing for reluctant readers who have low reading stamina. Plus, I think middle grade readers will appreciate reading stories that reflect their lives, not their parents’ or grandparents’ stories.
La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya
This bilingual retelling of the classic fairy tale is spunky, playful, and fun. Featuring gorgeous illustrations inspired by illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal's native Peru and cleverly crafted rhymes from author Susan Middleton Elya, it’s a joy for both the reader and the listener. Don’t be surprised if the kiddos can’t stop talking about la reina, la niña, and that pesky little guisante.
Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez
Lucía thinks she has what it takes to be a luchadora (she even has an awesome mask and cape to prove it!), but she starts to doubt herself when she’s told only boys can be luchadores. Then her grandma shares a family secret that inspires Lucía to feel proud of her history and empowered to follow in the steps of the luchadoras before her.
Everyone knows that mental illness exists; everyone knows the devastating effect that it can have, both on the people suffering from it and their friends and families. This is not new information – it’s something that we’ve known forever and ever. But the hush-hush way we’ve developed of discussing it and dealing with it clearly aren’t working. So let’s finally start talking about it, because that’s the only chance that we have of beating it.” — from Airing My Dirty Laundry by Anne Theriault
Talking about mental illness can be hard, especially when misconceptions are rampant in middle school. It almost feels like a taboo subject at times. The term "mental health" is loaded with meanings for different people. It could suggest a call for taking deep breaths or reducing stress or, on the other extreme, concern about one’s mental stability and the possibility that it may lead to violent or extreme choices. For our middle schoolers, I tried to focus this list on issues like anxiety, OCD, depression, and ADD/ADHD, which are relevant for many.
Reading books that tackle the topic of mental health helps students feel more at ease with whatever social/emotional/mental struggles they may be dealing with at school or at home. For others, it’s a great way to connect with a character that is experiencing the actual mental health challenge they face every day. Others may find inspiration from reading sad but hopeful books where the lead character perseveres and succeeds despite any mental health issues and trials that life throws at them. Ultimately, I hope this list showcases a mirror for those who need it and a window for others to become more empathetic towards those who struggle with mental health.
The Youth Suicide Prevention Program lists the following signs that may indicate that someone is thinking of suicide:
So, if a friend or child or sibling or student mentions suicide or shows one (even many) of the warning signs take it seriously. Get help immediately. Do not leave the person alone. At the same time, show the person you care by sharing your concerns and listening carefully to their feelings.
Advocating for Student Voice in Metro Atlanta & Beyond
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