What I thought was a very interesting, deep book turned out to be my 8th graders’ least favorite. I had honestly never read Fahrenheit 451 until last summer, but I loved it. I was excited to read it. But, my 8th graders didn’t. They didn’t enjoy Ray Bradbury’s view on society, electronics, or books. They didn’t like deciphering the allusions and symbols. They thought it was long-winded and boring. They didn’t participate in discussions. I had to force their opinions and thoughts out of them with many writing prompts. We took a vote on their favorite and least favorite novels read this year. To Kill A Mockingbird won as the class favorite, almost with a clean sweep. And…Fahrenheit 451 was the least favorite of almost every student.
But, on the upside, there was one part of the unit that they did enjoy (partially, ignoring the 5-paragraph research paper I’m having them do) on censorship and banned books. We studied different reasons for censorship and how Ray Bradbury felt about it. I then had them chose a book from the 2000-2010 ALA Top 50 Banned Book list to research and decide for themselves if it should or should not be banned (I did tell them that for the most part, arguing it should be banned would be easier for research, even if they didn’t agree with it).
Well, last week, randomly, this article showed up in my Facebook Newsfeed, so I read it and was shocked and amazed!
Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop being asked to be removed from library shelves?!!? What!?!?!
So, I printed off the article, borrowed the book from a coworker, and I had an impromptu lesson for the next day.
We reviewed quickly some reasons books are banned. Then, I asked students if they agreed with the banning of: Harry Potter, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tom Sawyer, Hunger Games, Twilight, and so on and so forth. I then said that a Dr. Seuss book is being asked to be banned. They were shocked.
So, I read the book to them and asked them if they could see why it might be banned…they had to stretch themselves. Then, we read the short article and reread the book. This time, they were shouting out on almost every page, “That shows violence! That’s homosexuality! That’s inappropriate!” I think they got the idea.
To make it even more clear and fun, I told them they had to become the parents asking the Toronto Library to ban Hop on Pop and write a letter saying why. Here are some excerpts from these “fanatic parent” letters:
“It was too many sexual innuendos. This book is also racist. Mr. Brown and MRs. Brown shows racism. The fact that they are married shows that all people should marry within their race or color.”
“Polygamy is promoted by the four people all sleeping in one bed….if my instructions are not followed, there will be consequences.”
“It has 4 guys in one bed. it has a guy grabbing a tiger’s tail. These things are gay, gay is bad.”
“This books teaches kids to do the things parents absolutely hate.”
“They [my children] should always follow my rules and this book encourages them to not follow my rules. that is not OK with me so I am going to put a stop to this unacceptable behavior that my kids have been showing because of this horrible book.”
“As I was reading this book, my soul was torn apart by the violence…..if I do’t see this book banned in the next day, I will burn all the libraries.”
“Now a bunch of parents, including me are thinking, ‘what the heck are you thinking?'”
“There are rhymes in every sentence. That is incorrect grammar…Either you take the book out of the library or I will take you to court and sue you.”
“Climbing up a hill that is impossible to climb. That teaches kids to try to climb very steep hills and almost killing themselves!”