Be Part of the Conversation - National Council of Teachers of English
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Be Part of the Conversation

This blog is written by Aaron Wiles to share how he introduced to parents a unit he does with his middle schoolers during Banned Books Week .

I sent this letter out to students and parents in an effort to educate, to build awareness, and to invite everyone in our school community to be part of an ongoing global conversation. My hope with the unit is to create positive change and to expose my students to new worlds and new perspectives.

Dear Parents and/or Guardians,

I would like to take this time to inform you about our next unit and encourage you to participate with our school in celebrating the right to read. This year, the American Library Association along with the National Council of Teachers of English and the Banned Books Week Coalition are continuing their efforts to celebrate our right to read and speak out against censorship. As 8th graders, students will be reading literature from the banned and challenged reading lists provided by the ALA, as well as participating in activities that promote freedom of speech, the right to read, and the importance of free thought.

The practice of challenging and banning literature is an ongoing struggle in our society. Part of my purpose in teaching this topic is to bring awareness to the issue for my students and allow them the opportunity to form their own opinions about the subject. Students will have their own free choice as to which book they select from the list to read in class. These books are pieces of literature that can be found here at school, at our local booksellers, and our local libraries. Once the books are selected, students will be participating in rich discussion and activities surrounding the ideas of freedom of speech, the importance of the written word, and the impact that reading, writing and communicating have on the world.

Our hope is that you will engage in open conversation with your students about what they are learning, so that we can continue to grow together as a community of learners. Also, please have conversation with your students about which books on the list would be appropriate for them. The list is posted on our Google Classroom page. We will be working, discussing, and celebrating here at school, so we would love it if that would continue at home as well.

I have attached links below that can provide you with more information about Banned Books Week and the Celebration of Our Right to Read. Please do not hesitate to email me if you have any questions or need further clarification about the unit.


Aaron Wiles
Teacher- 8th Grade ELA
Southridge Middle School

Useful and informative links:

Grade Level Booklist
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissenger
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Cujo by Stephen King
Forever by Judy Blume
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I Am Jazz  by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
George by Alex Gino
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Advanced Booklist
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Black Boy by Richard Wright
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot





Aaron Wiles is an 8th grade ELA teacher at Southridge Middle School in Huntingburg, Indiana. He loves teaching, learning, reading, nature, rock climbing, his girlfriend, and his dog (noting not in order of importance) 🙂