Celebrating the Freedom to Read

| By Yonah Kirschner, Program Manager, DigitalJLearning Network

“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.” ― Stephen Chbosky

While the label “the People of the Book” refers specifically to the Torah, the Jewish people have developed a close relationship with the written word in all forms. We count many authors - fiction, nonfiction, journalists, and poets - among our own.

Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read launched first in 1982. The event draws attention to the problem of censorship through a variety of events in libraries and bookstores around the country.

In honor of this year’s Banned Books Week (September 27-October 3), we’ve collected online resources for seven well-known banned books, written by Jewish authors, that you can use in your classroom.

 

 

 

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
A video of Williams College Theater performing The Crucible that will bring the story to life for your students
A full text PDF file of the play that will make it easy for students to jump to a certain section to read while they’re working on the computer (There's also this Google Books version)
Resources from the New York Times Archive, including the original 1953 review and Arthur Miller’s own reflections on writing the play, can serve as resources for students who want to dig deeper.
Storyboards about the play that students can use as examples and then create their own.
A PDF teacher’s guide with discussion and essay questions you can use to drive student blog posts
Videos about the history of the Salem Witch Trials for students to watch as part of a rotation station

 

Night by Elie Wiesel
A diverse set of online resources about the book, the author, and the Holocaust
Video of Elie Wiesel speaking about his experiences
Resources for teaching about Wiesel and Night, including videos and online readings
Video of Wiesel talking about fighting indifference and a video of him talking about writing Night
List of discussion and writing topics about the book
Basic biographical information and links to related articles on the topic of the Holocaust

 

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Background information on Anne Frank, her family, and more to give students more historical context for the book
Easily navigable website that uses Anne Frank’s story to help students learn about human rights
Video of Otto Frank, Anne’s father, talking about his daughter’s diary
Online glossary of terms that will help students better understand the book (and other resources too, including a timeline of events)
Lots of videos provided by the Anne Frank House
An awesome teacher’s guide for the film version of the book, which can support your lessons, and also have more resources listed at the end
An incredible online exhibition about Anne Frank from Google Cultural Institute

 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Discussion questions and more that you can use to drive student writing
Video of Joseph Heller speaking about his experiences in WWII
A reading guide with more complex questions, great for a higher level class or group
Reading guide questions organized by chapter

 

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Video about Salinger’s life and his writing
Downloadable complete novel unit on the book that you can then integrate with an LMS or other online learning platform
A whole bunch of book-themed PDFs that include lesson plans, resources, activities, and more
A reading and study guide for the entire book, plus essay topics and other resources
Fun and silly crash course for the book that will teach students about Salinger’s writing style and how his life experiences influenced the book
A PDF ten-day study plan for the book, geared towards 11th and 12th grade students
Another thorough PDF teacher’s guide for the book
Video about the life of JD Salinger

 

Where the Sidewalk Ends & A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
PDF with activities for younger students
Online version of the poem “Sick” from Where the Sidewalk Ends
Video of poems from A Light in the Attic
Website with text of the poems from both books that will make it easy for students to study the poems online (and another one here!)
Resources for teaching about poetry
PDF of 5th grade lesson on poetry

 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Study guide for the book, free and online, with quizzes
One more study guide, this one from Shmoop
Interview with the author Judy Blume, by Scholastic
Judy Blume's website with information about her books, views on censorship, and more