NEHS’s Intellectual Freedom Challenge (IFC) invites sophomore or junior NEHS members to submit well-reasoned, argumentative essays about the use of controversial texts that have been or may be challenged due to theme, content, or language. Successful students receive book gift cards as well as a Crafton Award certificate. While all educators need to be thoughtful about such selections and have clear rationales for the decisions made concerning texts, all too often books are set aside, limited, or challenged because of content. The American Library Association (ALA), through its celebration of Banned Books Week each year (September 26 – October 2 this year), along with other organizations like National Council of Teachers of English, urge all to push back against censorship attempts.
The ALA once again focuses on the challenges of censorship in schools and in society at large. This statement from ALA highlights the importance of this effort: “This year’s theme is ‘Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.’ Sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. Books reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Censorship, on the other hand, creates barriers.” Visit the ALA’s website for suggestions for activities and print materials for distribution.
NEHS’s annual IFC competition is the first NEHS opportunity of the new school year. Over several years, the NEHS Intellectual Freedom Challenge has generated fine writing from members who believe in the power of literature and the “students’ right to read.” Up to twelve writers will each receive $100 and their sponsoring chapters $50. IFC essays will be accepted from September 7, 2021, through October 4, 2021; submissions will be made through the AwardSpring system.