ES: We started reaching out to our friends first to spread the word about the club and try to build members. We were a very small group initially, as there were only six of us at first. But now, we’ve tripled in size, which is very exciting! We would meet about every month in the library and start plowing through the list of books that our school was attempting to remove and focusing discussions on them.
I think what really helped us get started initially was talking to other students and reaching out to friends about the club because there’s power in numbers. The more people you get involved, the more awareness you can raise towards the issue. It really helps because it shows just how many people are passionate about their right to read and their right to education.
ACLU: Did you receive any pushback from your school when trying to start up your club?
ES: Like any other school club at our high school, we had to go through an application process to become a club. But overall, we didn’t receive any pushback for the formation of the club from our teachers or librarians. They’ve all been really supportive. The main hurdle though was, at first, we had difficulty getting access to the novels we wanted to read because of our district’s book ban. We asked some of the English teachers who had extra copies of some of the books on their shelves if VHS Banned Book Club students could borrow them for the month, but they were not allowed to do that because of the school district’s ban. So instead, we posted public Amazon wish lists for books that donors contributed to that allowed us to get some of the books on our list for club members.
ACLU: How do you select books to read for the club?
ES: All of the books we have read and propose to read come from the list of books the district removed from our school. We have a Google form that we update every month where we have all those books listed and our members get to vote for which one they want to read next.
ACLU: How many books has the banned book club read so far?
ES: Oh, that’s a good question. We’ve read 7 books.
ACLU: What’s your favorite banned book that you’ve read so far?
ES: The Handmaid’s Tale!
ACLU: How often do you meet?
ES: We meet twice a month.
ACLU: How do you decide what questions to ask to guide those book club meetings?
ES: We have officer positions for our club, and one of the positions is “Discussion Curator.” They are responsible for writing about five questions every meeting to help guide the discussions. Most are normal book club questions like “Which characters do you relate to?” or “What scene in the book stood out to you?”. But there are also questions like “How does this book being banned affect you and make you feel as a student? and How does it affect your learning?”. Those are the types of questions we will dive into as a group.