Banned Books: A High School Literature Study For The Curious And Unafraid

This high school literature study examines nine previously or currently banned books and encourages the learner to consider the impact of restricting access to them.

banned books

Why Banned Books?

It’s because of Mr. Vezzolini.

I’ll explain, but the truth is, there are a actually two answers to this question.

The first is that anything banned is almost always entirely more enticing, especially to my 16-year-old son. We needed a literature study for this school year. I saw a list of banned books in the news and shared it with him.

Boom, Banned Books Literature Study was born.

The second, more important answer is because of Mr. Vezzolini. When I was in sixth grade, my teacher, Mr. Vezzolini wanted us to read The Old Man and The Sea, by Ernest Hemmingway. This was not on an approved list for sixth graders, primary because of language and sexual references.

Mr. Vezz was so passionate about the message and story of this book, he took 32 paperback copies of it home with him over a weekend and redacted the parts that he knew would get him into trouble.

This was 1985, so think black sharpie and a ton of hours flipping to find the curse word on page 74 and the sentence about a body part on page 121. There was no Google back then, so he had to read the book himself to find the words and phrases, and then use his copy as a guide for the other 32.

When he brought the redacted books in the following Monday, he explained that we would not be allowed to remove the books from the classroom and that he would be reading aloud to us as we followed along. This way, if we had questions, or if the reading level was a bit too advanced, the entire class would still be able to progress together through the book.

My husband was also in this class. He remembers a group of boys desperately trying to read the words under the black sharpie.

What I remember is thinking that this book must be really, really important if he took all that time on his own to make sure we were able to read it.

I am not even sure I liked the book. What I loved was how committed he was to share it with us and the conversations it sparked in our classroom.

I designed this study with Mr. Vezzolini in mind. He believed in the value of literature and the discussion of big ideas. So do I. We homeschool with books as a standard practice. It’s time we take a look at the banned ones.

banned books high school literature study

Banned Books: A High School Literature Study For The Curious And Unafraid

This is not a typical literature study.

There are no comprehension worksheets or book vocabulary lists.

The purpose of the study is to think about the nature of these nine banned books and why they have been challenged and/or banned.

The Nine Banned Books Included In This Study

  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathon Evison
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • 1984 by George Orwell

For each book, the study includes:

  • Discussion questions to help the learner determine why they believe the booked was banned, and their own opinion about the book
  • Links and QR codes for supporting resources and YouTube Videos
  • General facts about book bans and challenges in 2022

Banned Books Literature Study Overview

Primarily for high school level study, there are some books that might also be appropriate for middle schoolers. Even if you did not cover any of the books, the discussion questions provide a basis for conversation for children of all ages.

A special note for struggling learners: This study uses a font and format that is typically easier for children with learning differences. There are also instructions that encourage the learner to study the books in ways that work best for them. This includes encouraging the use of audiobooks, as well as discussing the answers to questions rather than writing them.

Please join us for this important study!

banned books

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One Comment

  1. Hi Shawna,
    This is really interesting! I am in New Zealand. I have two high schoolers who have studied Of Mice And Men, The Outsiders, and The Hate U Give at their school this year. When I was in high school (in the 80’s) we studied To Kill A Mockingbird, Lord Of The Flies, and 1984. I am so curious as to why these books are banned. I’m also curious about what books are studied in high school in the US. Are you able to give me a few examples?
    Having said that these books are okay by New Zealand standards, we are by no means free thinkers here. I think that a teacher like your Mr Vezzolini would be shown the door by our Education Dept for his passionate disregard of the rules!
    Thank you for your blog and useful advice and experience. I have found many of your posts so helpful with homeschooling my 10 year old (ADHD). Bless you for passing on your wisdom and sharing the hard bits too!

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