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Banned Books Virtual Read-Out

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bannedbooksweek.org

Brief Assignment Overview: 

Students videotape themselves reading 2-minute-long passages from a banned book of their choice. They then upload their readings to the Virtual Read-Out Youtube channel, sharing them nationally. Instructions can be found here

This assignment is well-suited to banned books classes, though I don't see why anyone else couldn't participate. Banned Books Week falls at the beginning of every October, and the American Library Association, among many others (see here for a full list of sponsors) organizes a Virtual Read-Out.

Since I am teaching my banned books class during Banned Books Week, I am making student participation in the Virtual Read-Out optional for extra credit. Even though this assignment is voluntary, I've had a couple of submissions, and a few more are in the works. 

Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Literature: 
Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

This assignment accomplishes a few pedagogical goals. First, it requires the student to choose a book important to them, thus requiring a degree of engagment that compulsory excercises don't always inspire. It should be noted that they are not required to read from books that I've assigned--the American Library Association has a comprehensive list of most challenged books since 1990. Thus a few students seem to have chosen books with personal significance to them, unexpectedly making this an excercise in ethos-building. 

Second, this excercise fosters collaboration. Since a few of my students are more tech-savvy than others, they have offered to record and edit other students' readings. My class has entirely voluntarily created a facebook group to help them organize a larger group version of the read out project, editing together several readings into one entry. 

Last, the read-out compels them to pay attention to oratorial style. A few have remarked that they had to think of ways to keep the reading from becoming monotonous. And even those who have not voiced such concerns tend to rely on inflection and emphasis in their readings. 

When our submissions reach a critical mass, I plan on devoting a chunk of class to watching and analyzing their performances, paying attention to their stylistic choices. 

Required Materials: 

Video camera (available through phone, webcam, or video camera). Web cams are installed in all Lab computers and cameras are also available for check-out.

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

In honor of Banned Books Week, perform your own Virtual Read-Out!

Choose a text of your choice from the ALA website and create a video of yourself reading a passage from the book in question. You don't have to choose a book we're reading this semester. The Virtual Read-Out rules advise you to keep this reading under 2 minutes. Then, when you're done, send it to me, and upload it to the Virtual Read-Out Youtube channel. You could be internet famous! instructions can be found here.

Due Date: By the end of the semester. 

This will count as extra credit on your final paper. Note: videos MUST be uploaded to the Virtual Read-Out Youtube channel in order to count for extra credit. 

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

Be sure to look over the Banned Books website preparatory to presenting the assignment to class. N.b. though Banned Books Week ended Oct. 6, there appears to be no cutoff date for submitting videos. 

Present the website. I took some time to go over the "Most Challenged" lists for the past year or two, which generated an interesting discussion about what books were banned and why. 

Then take them to the Virtual Read-Out page. Explain the assignment.

Instructions For Students: 

In honor of Banned Books Week, perform your own Virtual Read-Out!

Choose a text of your choice from the ALA website and create a video of yourself reading a passage from the book in question. You don't have to choose a book we're reading this semester. The Virtual Read-Out rules advise you to keep this reading under 2 minutes. Then, when you're done, send it to me, and upload it to the Virtual Read-Out Youtube channel. You could be internet famous! instructions can be found here.

Due Date: By the end of the semester. 

This will count as extra credit on your final paper. Note: videos MUST be uploaded to the Virtual Read-Out Youtube channel in order to count for extra credit. 

Evaluation Suggestions: 

As I note above, this assignment is voluntary, for extra credit. I plan on awarding 5 extra points toward the final paper to anyone who reads or otherwise participates in a reading. 

Course Description: 

In this class, we will examine books that have been banned or otherwise challenged in Britain and the United States. Beginning with John Milton’s Areopagitica, an essay that, one might argue, provides the foundation for modern notions of free speech and censorship, we will examine how challenged books interrogate our notions of decency and morality. The course will end with Beloved, a book that forces us to question how we understand our nation’s traumatic past. Each of these books will allow us to discuss how literature as an art can also profoundly disturb us.

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