English teachers express concern over increased national trends for book bans

Between July of 2021 and June of 2022, PEN America reported over 2,500 instances of banned books which included 1,648 individual books, and English teachers have been following the trend. 

English teacher Troy Slater teaches American literature to the 1930s, including the frequently banned novel by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and he also used to teach Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in the sophomore English classes, but Cedar Falls does not teach that novel anymore.

 “I am aware that they have been banned in almost every state at some point and they are both novels that have to be handled with a great deal of sensitivity, but books like these need to stay in the classroom because of the moral lessons they teach us about life in America and that the past is not perfect,” Slater said.

Media specialist Abigail Hendrickson said she sees a lot of the pressure for removing books coming from parents. “Parents turn to social media, take excerpts from books out of context and try to remove a book for all students.” 

English teacher Brenna Griffin, who teaches upper level writing courses and is also part of the Iowa Council Teachers of English who participates in discussions about challenged books, knows a lot about the trends. Including the struggles students go through to find the books they want to read. As Brenna Griffin said, “Students thrive when they see themselves represented.”

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