Ban? No, Teach the Topics.

Gender, sexuality and religion are common themes in challenged books of 2015. Rather than effectively ban these topics from the classroom, TT recommends teaching about them and offers student texts to do so.

Two common themes are apparent when reviewing the American Library Association’s list of the top 10 most challenged books of 2015. The first is highlighted by such books as Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan and I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. These books and others on the list feature characters that represent the diversity of gender and sexuality beyond the privileged norms. Religion is another prominent subject in books on the list; challenged texts include the Holy Bible, Habibi by Craig Thompson and Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter.

Gender, sexuality and religion are social flashpoints, and so it’s no surprise that books that tackle these subjects have raised concerns. However, instead of shying away from such important aspects of humanity, it’s vital that students engage with challenging texts that can serve as mirrors of their own experiences and as windows into those of others.

In honor of Banned Books Week, below is a listing of just some of the readings around these topics in Teaching Tolerance’s Perspectives for a Diverse America text anthology. It’s our hope that you will use these readings with your students to provide a more rigorous, relevant and engaging classroom experience. Happy reading!

Tip! To access the texts, you can log in to Perspectives and then click on the hyperlinks below. Doing so will pull up the readings in your browser. Or you can search for the titles in the advanced filter of the text anthology. (You must have completed your free registration to log in and see the anthology.) 

Gender and Sexuality


Phillips is the manager for teaching and learning at Teaching Tolerance.

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