Dr. Seuss almost banned. Other books really canned.

Did you know that that even Dr. Seuss books have irritated readers so much that they tried to get them banned from school and library shelves?

See if you can identify why the books below, usually read in elementary and middle grades, were challenged and in some cases banned.  Answers will appear at the end.  (Some questions have more than one correct answer.)

Image result for hop on Pop illustration

1.  Why did a patron of the Toronto, Canada, Public Library want Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss banned in 2014? (It wasn’t.  Phew!)

a.  imperfect rhymes

b.  too dark a theme for little children

c.  encouraging of young children to use violence against their fathers

Image result for If I ran the Zoo book images

2.  Why did patrons of the Vancouver, Canada, Public Library want If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss banned in 2014? (Again, reason prevailed.)

a.  Vancouver doesn’t have a zoo.

b. Illustrations show Asians with slanted eyes.

c.  Illustrations of snakes were too scary for children

Image result for Of Mice and Men illustration

3.  Why did two parents of the Brainerd, MN, School District want John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men banned?

a.  Japanese people were referred to as Japs.

b.  Jesus Christ was used as a curse word.

c.  The n-word (the actual word) was used to describe African Americans.

Image result for Harry Potter book illustration

4.  Why were the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling challenged hundreds of times by religious groups within the first two years of publication?

a.  violence

b.  occult/Satanic themes

c. anti-family themes

Image result for The Giver illustration

5.  Why was The Giver by Lois Lowry ranked eleventh for books most frequently asked for removal from schools from 1990 to 2000? (It was removed about one-third of the time.)

a.  violence

b.  too dark a theme for children

c.  too few women characters

Image result for To Kill a Mockingbird illustration

6.  Why was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee challenged in Eden Valley, MN, in 1977 and temporarily banned?

a.  It used the words “damn” and “whore lady.”

b.  It depicted a bigoted aunt who expressed her views using the n-word.

c.  The Humane Society objected to the way a rabid dog was killed.


Image result for Diary of Anne Frank illustration

7.  Why was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank challenged but not banned by the Northville, MN, middle schools in 2013?

a.  too realistic description of Nazi atrocities

b.  too realistic description of a girl’s anatomy

c.  The diary was published without the author’s permission.


Image result for No Fear Shakespeare Romeo and juliet illustration

8.  Why did some parents in Liberty, SC, in 2013 want No Fear Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare banned?

a.  suicide

b.  underage marriage

c.  mature sexual theme

Google “banned books” and you’ll see that the list of banned books is long, though fortunately, most books’ placement on the list has been short-lived.   Eighty years ago the Nazis had book-burning bonfires, but today Europeans read those same books unimpeded.  Luckily, we live in a time of the internet, when it’s almost impossible to ban books any more.

  1. c
  2. b
  3. a, b, c
  4. a, b, c
  5. a, b
  6. a
  7. b
  8. c

How to make reading nonfiction easier

Here is a pattern I have taught second graders, but  children of all ages can benefit.  It works especially well for reading nonfiction which is usually harder than reading fiction.

boy reading on the floor

First, before reading the text,

  • Read the title and think about what it means. Then look at all the photos, drawings, charts, cartoons, maps and tables.  Try to figure out what they mean.  From all them, try to figure out what you will be reading about.
  • If there are subheadings, read them. Go through the whole article and read them.  If you are reading a book, read chapter headings.  Ask yourself, what is this about?  Try to predict what you’ll be reading about.
  • If there are vocabulary words in the margins or highlighted in the text, read them and their definitions. Say them out loud, and if you can’t, ask an adult how to pronounce them.

Now you are ready to read the text.

  • The most important thing to figure out is the main idea. Often in nonfiction, the main idea is stated at the end of the first paragraph.  But sometimes the first paragraph is a hook, so the main idea comes later.  Reread the title and find words in one of the first paragraphs which say the same thing.  If you own the book, underline or highlight the main idea and in the margin write “main idea.”  If the book cannot be written in, start a mindweb on a separate paper with the main idea in the center.  Or write “main idea” on a sticky note and paste it over the main idea in the text.
  • The next most important thing to figure out is shich details are important. Underline them or add those ideas to your mind web.  It’s easier to study a mindweb than it is to study a whole lot of paragraphs.
  • Highlight or write down the words you don’t understand. Then write down their meanings.  Sometimes there are clues in the nearby words, or the book contains a glossary.  Or you can ask someone.  Or you can use a dictionary.
  • If some idea is difficult to understand, ask someone to explain it.  If you can find a young child’s version of the information, that is a good place to start.  Online sources might say what you need to know in an easier way.

When I work with my son on reading, should he read silently or should I interrupt and ask questions?

If you are working with your son, you should be involved.  What does an involved reading teacher do?

  • Before he reads a selection, you could read it, understand it, and preview it with your son. That does not mean giving away the ending if it is a story.  But it might mean explaining the setting or motivation of the main character.  In nonfiction, it might mean showing him a map or other graphic to make the reading easier to comprehend.

Tutor teaching a child.

  • Before reading, you and your son together could look at any graphics accompanying the article. You could ask him to interpret the graphics to be sure he understands the data.  You could ask him to read headlines and subheadings, and then ask him to predict what he is about to read.
  • If he has trouble pronouncing words or if he slurs big words, ask him to read a short section at a time aloud. Go back to the words he missed and discuss them, asking him to pronounce them, writing the words in syllables on notebook paper so he can see the structure of the word, explaining prefixes, suffixes or word roots.  If there are vocabulary words you suspect he might not know, ask him the meanings, and if he can’t explain them correctly, discuss their meanings.  Then ask him to read that part of the selection again.
  • Now ask him what it means. Don’t accept, “It’s about a farm,” but ask for more specific meaning.  “It’s about a small baby pig that a farmer is going to kill.”  Ask him if his prediction was right or should he change it.
  • Fluency can only be judged by a teacher if the child reads aloud.  Listen for pacing, inflection, changing of voice tone, loudness or softness.  If you know your child is a fluent reader, you needn’t have him read aloud often for fluency.  But if he is not a fluent reader, you might want to read a sentence at a time using fluency and have your child mimic you.
  • If you read along silently, and your child finishes a selection long before you do, probably he is racing. Ask him about the meaning.  If his answer is vague, ask him to read again but slower.
  • If your child is a competent reader, your job might consist of asking for feedback—orally or written. If your child is reading fiction, you might ask about setting, characters, theme, ups and downs in the story and the climax.  If he is reading nonfiction, ask for the thesis and organization of the article.  Ask a question which the article answers and let the student find and read the part which answers your question.
  • If you can’t be engaged with your child during the reading, you could leave questions to answer so you know the child has paid attention.

Good teachers interrupt when they hear mistakes or hesitancy.  They ask questions if they suspect the student is not understanding.

But if your son is reading strictly for his own pleasure, back off.  Maybe when the day’s reading is done, ask him what his reading selection was about or what he liked, but don’t pressure him.  If he is asking you questions like, “Hey, Mom, what does contentious mean?” or “Why do hunters want elephant tusks anyway?” he is doing what you want—consulting an expert when he doesn’t understand.

How teachers can better deal with sensory integration issues

Many school teachers think that the more wall space covered with sight words, the ABC’s, classroom rules, maps, posters, the periodic table, steps in the writing process, and photos of fossils the better students can learn.

hard books, easy book because of white space, graphics

Not so.  At least, not so for students with sensory integration issues.  For them the information  meant to help instead distracts and makes focusing difficult.

What can teachers do to modify their classrooms so children can focus better?

  • First, assume sensory integration (SI) issues are as real as the problems of a child needing glasses or using crutches. To get the best possible learning from SI children, meet their needs.
  • Leave plenty of “white” space on the walls. Just as white space on a page of print encourages reading, white or blank space on classroom walls lessens distractions and encourages learning.
  • Limit wall decorations—especially graphic or vivid decorations—to the back of the room where students are not barraged by them. When students face forward, they should see the teacher, the board and the clock, but not distractions.
  • Make sure every student sits in a desk chair which allows the student’s feet—toes and heels—to touch the floor without straining. Children forced to sit in chairs too big for them are uncomfortable, and that discomfort distracts them from learning.
  • Leave elbow space next to every student desk. A student who must sit with both sides of her desk touching another desk can feel claustrophobic, making learning hard.  At the very least, put only two student desks together.
  • Don’t place students so that they face other students.
  • Leave space before and behind a student’s desk so that he can comfortably push back his chair or enter and leave his desk without bumping into another student’s desk. Leave enough space so another student’s feet can’t touch the chair ahead from behind.
  • When students sit cross-legged in a group, if a student wants to sit at the rear, allow it. If a student wants to stand at the back of the line, allow it.  Students sensitive to touch will be grateful and you will have fewer fights and less fidgeting.
  • If a student is concerned about the condition of a used book—ripped or folded pages, highlighting, doodling in margins—assume the concern is real and will interfere with learning. Find a book in better condition.
  • If students share pencils from a classroom bin, assign someone to sharpen them daily or twice daily. Writing with sharp points not only looks better but encourages students to do well.  Dull points can really annoy students with sensory integration issues.
  • Instruct students to use indoor voices in the classroom.

Let students know they can approach you if they have SI issues.  Ask them how they would solve a problem.  Many times they have already figured out how to live with SI.

How to answer test questions for reading passages

Beginning in third grade, students need to learn strategies for answering multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions.  Here is a five-part strategy which works.

Student holding paper and reading it as he is writing

First, read the questions, not the selection.  That way, as you read the selection, you already know what the questions are and you might find answers.

Second, as you read the questions, circle key words.  Now find those same key words in the selection and circle them there.  Read the sentence or two before the circled words and the sentence or two after to be sure you have the right answer.

Third, underline the correct answer.  Next to the underline write the number of the question in case you need to go back later to check.

Fourth, in multiple choice questions, cross out any wrong answers. Don’t let them distract you. Usually one or two are obviously wrong, and the two left are pretty close to the right answer.  But one of those is usually better.


Fifth, figure out the main idea.  Almost always one question asks for the main idea.  The question might ask, “What was this reading passage about?”  Or it might ask, “What could be another name for this story?”  To find out, reread the title or headline.  Reread the first paragraph, and especially if you are reading nonfiction, reread the last sentence of the first paragraph.  Or sometimes the main idea can be found in the last paragraph where the passage might be summarized.  Still don’t know?  Look for key words throughout the passage, words that are repeated.

Helping a child with sensory integration issues

Sometimes what we think is a reading problem is really a sensory integration problem.

child tired, cold, hungry with mother

Sensory integration means sorting through all the input from our senses—what we see, hear, smell, taste or feel—into a meaningful message in our brains. Sometimes too much sensory data clogs our brains, causing problems. On an airplane, for example, some of us can easily tune out the baby crying and the plane bumping through clouds.  But others are ready to scream.

A child might show sensory integration issues if the cat is purring is too loudly.  Or the new shoes are too tight.  The bath towel is too scratchy.  The banana texture is too squishy.  Bathtub bubbles hurt .  The label inside the T-shirt tickles.

If you child has sensory integration issues here’s how you can help her focus when reading:

  • Motion: Make sure she is sitting in a still, comfortable place where she is less likely to fidget.  No gliders or swings.  Not in the back seat of a moving car.  Make sure her feet are supported.
  • Sound: Eliminate noise distractions.  Turn off the TV and radio.  Put the dog in his cage.  Stop the washing machine.  Seclude your child to the quietest part of the house.  If there is still noise, turn on your hair dryer or your vacuum cleaner to provide constant, steady “white” noise which obscures background sounds.  One of those recordings of waves or a mother’s heartbeat meant for new babies might also help.
  • Sight: Face a plain painted wall if possible.  No wallpaper with designs.  Draw the blinds.  Surround the child with calm, soothing colors like pastels, whites or tans.  No oranges, reds or bright pinks.  Choose picture books with plainer backgrounds so the child’s eyes know what to focus on.
  • Touch: Dress the child in soft, comfortable, nonbinding clothes.  Remove shoes and socks.  Have her sit on a smooth or pillowy surface—nothing scratchy.  If you are with her, cuddle if she likes but keep some distance if she prefers not to be touched.
  • A trick an occupational therapist taught me: To settle the child, scratch her back for a few minutes.  Begin at the neck and scratch straight down the backbone—not sideways and not from the bottom up, but from the top of the spine to just below the waist.  Scratch with your nails hard enough for the child not to feel tickled but not roughly enough to hurt.  (This is a great technique to help a baby relax to fall asleep, too.)

In the next blog we’ll talk about some modifications a teacher can make to a classroom to help children with sensory integration issues to prevail in school.


Facing dyslexia in a preschooler

So you suspect your preschooler has dyslexia.  What can you do?

  • Realize that the younger a child is when identified as dyslexic, the sooner help can begin. If possible, you want to identify the situation before the child becomes frustrated and discouraged, and before the child is labeled as “different.”child making letter T with his body
  • Ask your school district to test the child. Because of the child’s age, the district might balk, and say he will be tested when in kindergarten, or first grade, or later.  Sometimes the district will become involved if you have some “proof” that the child is dyslexic.  This might require private testing at your expense by some recognized expert.
  • From the school district, find out what services your child will receive and when.baby reading a book
  • If the school district “officially” won’t help, make an appointment with your elementary school’s reading specialist. She will probably have ideas you can start with, and she might be able to lend you materials or at least identify materials that will help.
  • Consider hiring a reading tutor, one with experience teaching children with dyslexia. A good tutor will use many strategies, particularly game-like, hands-on approaches that will appeal to a preschooler.boy sees a T in STOP
  • If someone else in the immediate family has dyslexia, there’s a good chance your child has the same kind of reading problem and can be helped the same way. What worked for your other relative?
  • Check out ideas on the internet. Use keywords such as dyslexia, preschooler, reading and learning strategies.
  • Begin working with your child yourself. Focus on the sounds of the language first, and make sure your child can hear them and pronounce them properly.  Only then match sounds with letters.mother works with child reading story book
  • Is letter recognition difficult? Buy an ABC puzzle or letter tiles or a Scrabble game.  Use the letters to play games forcing the child to identify letters.  Unfortunately, most sources for letters use only capital letters, and it is generally lower case letters which cause problems.
  • Work on printing letters properly. If fine motor coordination is difficult, use a computer keyboard instead.  But again, most keyboards identify the keys with capital letters.Mother shows child spelling of her name Kelly
  • Use music. Teach your child the ABC song.  Sing songs together which rhyme or read nursery rhymes.
  • Teach directions. Up, down. Left, right.  Inside, outside.
  • You may find it takes longer for your dyslexic child to master certain skills when compared to a child without reading difficulties. Be patient.  If a younger sibling is catching on faster than the dyslexic child, work with each child independently and out of earshot from one another.  If at all possible, conceal from your child that he is having reading difficulties.  Find ways for him to succeed at learning.A teacher says the first part of a rhyme, and the child says the rest of it.

How about pulling your child out of preschool, or stopping all reading instruction for a year or until the child is seven or until the child reaches first grade?  These are not good solutions.  In pre-K students are expected to know their letter sounds and to match them with ABC’s.  In kindergarten children are expected to read CVC words, high frequency words, and some two-syllable words.  A child who can’t keep up with his classmates develops low self-esteem which can intensify reading problems.

Be proactive.  If you think your three or four-yer-old shows signs of reading difficulty, act as soon as possible for the best outcome.