Stand Up for the Right to Read: A Critical Snapshot and Resource Guide

Stand Up for the Right to Read

If you’re facing the daunting challenge of censorship from your community or administration, I have something important to share with you. My co-author, Shelly Kay Unsicker-Durham, and I have recently published an article titled "The Hydra Nature of Book Banning and Censorship: A Snapshot and Two Annotated Bibliographies" in the latest issue of Study & Scrutiny: Research on Young Adult Literature, a peer-reviewed journal of critical and empirical studies sponsored by the University of Oklahoma. This issue takes a hard look at censorship in our schools and libraries, a critical subject that impacts us as educators and, most significantly, our students. It saddens and scares me that we are still having to address this issue, but if you're in need of resources to navigate this complex landscape, protect your students' right to read, and avoid undue trouble, this article (and journal issue) is intended for you.

The right to read is not just a privilege; it is a fundamental human right. It forms the bedrock of our education, shapes our understanding of the world, and hones our ability to think critically. Yet, in a world where information is power, there are still forces that seek to control, restrict, or outright ban access to books and literature. The insidious nature of book banning and censorship is akin to the many-headed hydra from Greek mythology; cut off one head, and two more will sprout in its place.

In our article, Shelly and I provide a snapshot of the current state of book banning and censorship, as well as two annotated bibliographies that offer a comprehensive list of resources for those who wish to delve deeper into this subject. Our hope is that this article will serve as a valuable resource for educators, librarians, students, and anyone committed to fighting for the right to read.

Additionally, this issue of Study & Scrutiny includes several other compelling articles that are a must-read for anyone invested in the world of young adult literature and education. 

Rosa Nam from Colorado State University, in "Teacher Use of Diverse Literature in Secondary English Language Arts Classrooms: District Barriers and Resistance Strategies," reports findings from her teacher perception survey that revealed teachers concerns about direct censorship and censorship of omission related to funding issues and outdated district approved reading lists, among other things. The article also shares how teachers resist these limitations, which is also a topic close to my heart. An outdated library and no funding is what led me to create the Curated Short Stories Library, which I used in my classroom to provide students with suggested texts adjacent to approved literature, such as TED Talks, nonfiction articles, and thematically and topically relevant young adult literature.

In "Preparing Preservice Teachers to Teach Young Adult Literature in Conservative Contexts,” Megan M. Van Deventer provides preservice teachers with insights, strategies, and approaches based on her classroom practices for reframing the narrative in a way that will support the development of their anti-bias pedagogy. You can read my writing on anti-bias and antiracist pedagogies here and here.

"Should I Teach This Text? Creating Text Complexity Rationales,” by Lara Searcy, Brogan Spears, Karrine Ortiz, Kevin Shank, and K. Emerson Foster, all from Northeastern State University, provides actionable steps, such as a reflective questioning exercise and a demonstration of creating rationales for books, and practical resources for teachers from multiple perspectives based on educational research, theories, and best practices.

I urge each and every one of you to read our article, as well as the rest of the scholarship in this latest issue of Study & Scrutiny. Together, we can arm ourselves with knowledge and stand united against the forces that seek to stifle our voices and control our minds.

Thank you all for your continued support, and thank you for joining us in this important fight. Let's make a difference, one book at a time.

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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