This week’s Dream English Course looks at books commonly banned in the United States that are written either for or about children. The first unit looks at texts that depict a version of childhood that is considered too explicit for various reasons and that could be read by children. The second unit looks at books that are aimed more at adult audiences, but which again feature stories of childhood that could be inappropriate. The final unit looks at childhood fantasy books that many people find objectionable for religious or other reasons.
Unit I: Children Can’t Read Reality (3 weeks)
Unit II: We Can’t Read about Children’s Reality (8 weeks)
Texts: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Unit III: Children Can’t Read Fantasy (7 weeks)
Texts: The Witches by Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson,Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Overarching Questions: Why are these books banned or challenged? What about them makes them unacceptable for children or unacceptable depictions of children? How do American fears play into the decision to censor? Do the reasons for censorship change across genres? What is lost if the book is banned or changed? What is an “acceptable” portrayal of childhood?