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Why are books challenged? Who censors books? Why?

Natalie Hoyle ( (ready to use)

Grade Levels
5, 6

Unit Keywords
Censor,challenge,ban, banned books, freedom of speech

Open Directory Category
Kids and Teens: School Time: English: Literature

Rationale of the Unit
Using Harry Potter as a vehicle, allow kids to explore censorship cases and issues.

This lesson plan would be especially effective during September in honor of Banned Books Week: September 22-29.

Make Banned Books week a part of the library curriculum for all grades by expanding and doing spin offs of this lesson plan.

This could be a good opportunity for a joint project between teachers and the media specialist.

Depending on how many of the activities and projects the instructor uses, this unit could take a minimum of one hour and maximum of five hours.

1) Teach children the meaning of challenging and censoring, and the difference between them.

2) Facilitate a class discussion on censorship issues regarding Harry Potter in an open atmosphere.

3) WEB EVALUATION: Help students become aware of who is writing web sites and why? Are the web sites written by an organization? Are the views an opinion of an individual?

4) Trigger questions and discussion of other censorship issues.
i.e. clothing in public schools, movies, music, internet filtering.

  INVESTIGATE Go to Topgo to top
Background and Resources
BACKGROUND -- These are web sites and articles with connections to Harry Potter and censorship.


TITLE: censoring bestsellers: Harry Potter under fire
SOURCE: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom 49 no1 1, 26 Ja 2000

TITLE: third-graders defend Harry Potter
SOURCE: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom 49 no2 46 Mr 2000

TITLE: Doesn't Everybody Love Harry?
SOURCE: Voice of Youth Advocates 23 no3 153 Ag 2000

TITLE: Harry Potter again tops list of most challenged books
SOURCE: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom 50 no2 43-4 Mr 2001

Source: The Horn Book Magazine, May 2000 v76 i3 p262.
Title: Hunting Down Harry Potter: An Exploration of Religious Concerns
about Children's Literature.
Subjects: Harry Potter books - Criticism, interpretation, etc.
Children's literature - Religious aspects
Magazine Collection: 103F4775
Electronic Collection: A62363789
RN: A62363789
(This is a longer article)

Source: Christian Parenting Today, Oct 2000 v13 i1 p44.
Title: The Return of Harry Potter.(Harry Potter books)
Author: Lisa Jackson
Subjects: Harry Potter books - Criticism, interpretation, etc.
Children's books - Criticism, interpretation, etc.
Electronic Collection: A66886893
RN: A66886893

Source: The New York Times, July 10, 2001 pA7(N) pA6(L) col 2 (1 col in).
Title: Brooms in upright position, please.(White Witches of Britain curse
Warner Bros. Harry Potter movie for showing Harry riding his broom
with brush at the back; brush at the front is
correct)(International Pages)

Source: The American Prospect, Dec 18, 2000 v11 i26 p38.
Title: American Gothic.

Source: American Libraries, Oct 2000 v31 i9 p17.
Title: Harry Potter Excommunicated.(Brief Article)
Author: Beverly Goldberg

Source: Focus on the Family citizen February 2000: pp. 6-9
Title: "The Trouble With Harry"
Author: John Andrew Murray

AUTHOR: Leah J. Sparks
TITLE: If You Like Harry Potter--Take the Hogwarts Express to These Web Sites!
SOURCE: Voice of Youth Advocates 23 no3 173 Ag 2000

The Christian Century v. 116 no33 (Dec. 1 1999) p. 1155 ISSN: 0009-5381

URLs: In Defense of Harry and then type in Harry Potter for a list of articles

other source located through OCLC First Search, WilsonSelectPlus results for: '(kw: harry and kw: potter) and (kw: challenged and kw: books)'
Wizards and Muggles.
This has chalenged book list
There is more on banned books including an article on Harry Potter by Judy Blume here

The Daily Prophet

The magical world's newspaper is now online with articles on everything from Quidditch results to Sirius Black sightings to wizard profiles.

The official Web site of the American publisher has games, a screen saver, news, information about author J. K. Rowling, excerpts from book reviews, a reading circle, discussion guides, and plot summaries of each book.

Harry Potter Magic Will Happen: The Official Movie Site
Information on the Harry Potter movie is coming soon!
J. K. Rowling
The detailed biographical information about Rowling posted here is written by the author herself.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Fan Club
Scroll down the page for news about the books and the upcoming movie, games, J. K. Rowling, and everything from Quidditch Team Rosters to the Sorting Hat and Every-Flavor Beans--and links to dozens of fan sites as well as official sites in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Japan.

The Harry Potter Network
Find information on the upcoming movie, chat, news, and a place to get your own Harry Potter e-mail address.

The Harry Potter Website
Riches include Quidditch rules, chapter summaries of the books, puzzles, a Harry Potter Mad Lib, Diagon Alley information, character biographies, and a trivia test.

Harry Potter's Realm of Wizardry
Here is your source for news, biographies of J. K. Rowling and the series characters, fan fiction, message boards, awards, rumors, and book reviews.

Hedwig's Guide to Harry Potter's Magical World
Another fan site offers quotations, character biographies, fan fiction, a chat room, and links.

Hermione's World
The fan site with the most art offers illustrated fan fiction, fan art, a mailing list, and Hogwarts yearbooks.


  CREATE Go to Topgo to top
Activities and Open-ended problems
IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES -- activities and discussions

1) Instructor brings in censored and or challenged picture books and allows students to peruse the books. For suggestions of challenged books use _Banned 2000_ noted in bibliography.

2) Create a simple worksheet with names of challenged books shown to the class and space below for students' comments. Have students pair up with another student and write down their partner's opinions of the picture books. Students should ask each other open-ended questions such as:
Why do you think this book has been banned?
What feelings do you get from the text and illustrations?
Do you think this book is offensive?
Why or why not?

3) Students are asked to brainstorm and share with the class why they think these books could be considered offensive. Do any of the students in the class find them offensive? Why or why not?

4) Media Specialist and/or teacher shows students the reasons for challenges in the past using _Banned 2000_ as a guide. Allow students to comment their surprise, agreement, disagreement and/or opinions about the challenges.

5) Form small groups of 2 or 3 to do outside work. Each group is assigned some URLs and readings about Harry Potter. Note that some URLs and readings are included in the INVESTIGATE section.


Have the small groups access URLs and readings about Harry Potter. Ask students to act as detectives as they find and gather resources. Their job is to find out who wrote the URLs and why. After students finish researching, each group will present their research and their findings of the background on the URL. If neither the author or the organization is noted on hte site itself go to and press in whois (with no space in between the words) and enter the URL name in question. This site will give the domain name.

OPEN-ENDED PROBLEMS -- creative extensions

1) When students present their findings have them note the source. Possible discussion questions:
Who wrote the article? Was it a parent, the government, a bookstore, or a library?
Why did they write the article? Are they trying to pursuade the reader one way or another?
Can you believe everything you see on the Internet?

Compare some articles and websites to an opinion page in a newspaper.
Talk about hate sites and explain where to look for the producers of the website.

2) Allow students to explore both sides of the censorship issue and have them prosecute and defend Harry Potter in a mock trial.

Let students who haven't read the book be jury members (_Banned 2000_). Set up classroom chairs to mimic a courtroom. Allow students to use their research to defend and prosecute the use of the Harry Potter in schools. During the court session, students playing the role of the prosecution and defense should note the source of the URL or article they used. Use students in each position in the courtroom. Teachers can be used as resources, but cannot play a position in the court.

  DISCUSS Go to Topgo to top
Dialogues, Discussions, and Presentations
For this next activity visit the web page I created, which has a list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999 from the American Library Association website ). Have students voice their opinions of the books appropriateness. Ask students to include their opinions of particular book by submitting comments under the book title. Have students include their first and last name at the end of each submission. Each student is required to submit at least three opinions online on the web site. Allow students the freedom to write anything about the appropriateness of the book. Their comments will remain on the website and the instructor can view them online at a later date.

Ask students how they would feel if a first grader were exposed to material that includes "dirty" words, profanity, sexuality, violence, or horror. Do students see a distinction between what is appropriate for them and what is appropriate for little ones? Could this protective feeling be the same as parents who challenge books?



A: "Censorship is the removal, suppression, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic, or educational materials--of images, ideas, and information--on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise objectionable in light of standards applied by the censor" (Reichman).

In other words, censorship is when stop or limit access to books and other materials they find objectionable.

A: "The word "censor" often evokes the mental picture of an irrational, belligerent individual. In most instances, however, it is a sincerely concerned parent or citizen interested in the future of education who complains about curricular or library materials. Complainants may not have a broad knowledge of literature or of the principles of intellectual freedom, but their motives in questioning may honestly believe that certain materials will corrupt children and adolescents, offend the sensitive or unwary reader, or undermine basic values and beliefs" (Reichman).

In other words, censors aren't crazy people; often they are concerned parents who worry that some books or other materials could harm children and teens.

Q: Are there ever situations when it is right to challenge a book?

Q: Are there ever situations when it is right to censor a book?

Q: Have you ever heard of any censorship cases?

Q: How would students feel when there is limited or no access to certain materials?

Q: Whose primary responsibility is determining what materials young people can access?
Family? The government?

Q: What can happen if books are banned?

(*Some of the ideas for these questions above are from _Banned 2000_)

Students may have questions of what is appropriate. If students do not ask the following questions, the media specialist or teacher can ask the class.

Q: Is it okay to object to material?
A: Yes.

Q: Is it okay to be offended?
A: Yes.

Q: Is it okay not to read or look at something myself because I find it scary or icky?
A: Yes.

Q: Is it okay to discuss what one feels is inappropriate?
A: Yes.

Q: Is it okay to tell other people what they can and cannot read?
A: No.

Facilitate a discussion that includes other censorship issues such as music and clothing in public schools. Allow students take the discussion in the direction they are interested.

  REFLECT Go to Topgo to top
Assessment, Related Questions, and Story of the Unit
Ask students what they have learned from this censorship discussion. Ask the students if their viewpoints on banning and censorship issues have changed.

WARNING: Be careful not to demonize challengers and be sure to emphasize that not all the censors are Christians, and many Christians do not censor.
Point out that challenges come from all sides. Witches in England have challenged Harry Potter because the brooms are not in the correct position. The bristles should go first, not the broom stick (The New York Times, July 10, 2001 pA7(N)pA6(L)col2(1col in).

STORY OF THE UNIT -- How did it go?


Credits & Acknowledgements
_Banned 2000_. Chicago: American Library Association, 2000.
“Censoring Bestsellers: Harry Potter Under Fire.” Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, 49
Jan. (2000): 26.

“Doesn’t Everybody Love Harry?” Voice of Youth Advocates, Aug (2000) 23 no3: 153.

G., A. “Harry IV Hits Libraries.” School Library Journal, Aug (2000) 46 no15: 24.

Gish, Kimbra Wilder. “Hunting Down Harry Potter: “An Exploration of Religious
concerns about Children’s Literature.” The Horn Book Magazine, May (2000) v76 i3:262.

Goldberg, Beverly. “Harry Potter Excommunicated.” American Libraries, Oct (2000) v31

Gounaud, Karen Jo. “Family Friendly Libraries
Book Report: Should ‘Harry Potter’ Go To Public School?” Oct. 13, 1999.

Greene, Pamela M. “Deconstructing Harry.” School Library Journal 46 (2000): 38-41.G.,

Jackson, Lisa. “Christian Parenting Today.” Christian Parenting Today, Oct (2000) v13

Kaminer, Wendy. “American Gothic.” The American Prospect, Dec 18 (2000) v11 i26:

Krug, Judith. “Harry Potter Again Tops List of Most Challenged Books.” Newsletter on
Intellectual Freedom, (2001) 50 no2: 43-44.

Maughan, Shannon. “New Heights for Harry.” Publishers Weekly, 247 (2000): 29-30.

Milliot, Jim. “Potter Powers Scholastic.” Publishers weekly, (2000) 247 no39 16 S25.

Monk, John. “In Defense of
Harry Potter.”

Moore, Sharon. We Love Harry Potter. New York: Lamppost Press, 1999.

Murray, John Andrew. “The Trouble With Harry.” Focus on the Family Citizen, February
(2000): 6-9.

Rees, Margaret. “US Christian Fundamentalists Target Harry Potter Books.” World
Socialist Web Site,

“Third-graders Defend Harry Potter.”Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, 49 no2 March
(2000): 46.

Reichman, Henry. _Censorship and Selection; Issues and Answers for Schools_. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001.

***Note*** Reichman's book has a chapter on Harry Potter starting on pg. 66.

Scales, Pat R. _Teaching Banned Books; 12 Guides for Young Readers_. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001.

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law: v.2 New York: West Group, 260-263.

Zipes, Jack. Sticks and Stones The Troublesome Success of Children’s Literature from
Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter. New York: Routledge, 2001.

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