This is my second year as teacher librarian at REVHS. Last year was such a whirlwind of figuring out which end was up that Banned Books Week slipped right by without my being able to draw attention to it at all. This year I really wanted to do student generated Banned Books Trading Cards. Over the summer I began planning and I am really pleased with how it has all come together.
Earlier this year I worked with an art teacher, Tracy Massimiano, who had two advanced art classes. I came into her classroom and gave a lesson on Banned Books Week, freedom to read, and first amendment rights. We then made a list of banned classics available to the students. I showed the students how they could find information about the books online and explained that critical analysis papers and discussion of themes would give them ideas for their artwork.
I showed the art teacher examples of Banned Book Trading Cards from other libraries and she designed a back for the cards. She sent me digital images of the fronts and backs of the students’ cards. I resized them so that 4 cards fit on an 8 ½ x 11 piece of cardstock. I printed the cards double-sided on my color printer. The result is that I have 36 cards that look really terrific! I printed 15 copies of each card and divided the cards up so that I could release several different cards a day.
Over the weekend, my daughter and I went in to set up for Banned Books Week. I found a great use for those 20-year-old “For Dummies” books we are weeding—I pulled pages out and used them for the background of my giant sign hanging across from the front door. We arranged all the banned or challenged books on the tops of low shelving with caution tape and signs that said “Danger: these books contain ideas that might be controversial and may cause you to learn something!” I put up signs explaining the event, along with some great quotes supporting intellectual freedom. I felt ready to go. Before I left the library I sent out an all school announcement and an email to the staff inviting them to come up and get celebrate their freedom to read by getting a banned books trading card.
This morning, I donned my “regalia”—my banned books jewelry and skirt—and headed to work with great excitement. I pinned a little card to my shirt that said, “Ask me about Banned Books Trading Cards!” I carefully laid out today’s sampling of cards on my counter -- The Lord of the Flies, Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland, Brave New World, and Animal Farm-- and waited for kids to arrive. I couldn’t wait to talk to kids, but technology problems arose, and I didn’t get to talk to as many students as I had wanted -- my TAs did a lot of the talking instead. Students seemed reluctant to take cards, but expressed surprised that these books had been challenged or banned when I explained things to them. After first period, some students came in to ask for cards; turns out an AP Government teacher was giving extra credit for picking one up.
So at lunch time when I still had quite a stack of cards, I made a sign (Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read.) and stuck it to my back and took cards outside and “worked the crowd.” My cards were gone within a few minutes! It was delightful.
The interest, which was at first polite because I was a teacher, became genuine when they saw titles that they knew. (My favorite overheard conversation: “Dude, Animal Farm . . . didn’t we see this movie? We just rented it.” . . . Laughter . . .“No way man, that was Animal HOUSE. Now that one would be a banned book!”)
I think that the word is getting out. Teachers have asked for cards; some teachers even said they want to print the whole set to frame and put in their classrooms! My friend in the English department shared her card for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with her classes and later remarked, “They were floored by the kinds of things that can happen and it sparked a great conversation.”
This morning several kids were flipping through today’s releases. I am chatting with a lot of kids who aren’t my “library regulars.” I am feeling pretty happy about the whole situation and I can’t wait to lay out tomorrow’s cards.