Censorship and Awards

Sample Syllabus Four for teaching with Crosscurrents of Children's Literature, Oxford University Press

When children’s books make news, it is usually because they have won an award or because they have been challenged or banned in a library or bookstore. Awards are often given to books that reinforce specific cultural values; books that are challenged are often the ones that challenge societal norms. Often the books that are challenged are also award winners. In both cases, adult concerns, interests and expectations are the driving factors behind these choices. The purpose of this course is to make students aware of the ideologies behind awards and censorship. The readings have been divided into 12 weeks (instead of the usual length of a semester) because you may choose to have them give presentations on their papers, which is quite time-consuming, or you may choose to assign a few additional readings of entire texts, such as a recent award winner or a book frequently or recently challenged in your area.


Berman, Ruth.  The Kerlan Awards in Children's Literature, 1975-2001. St. Paul, MN: Pogo Press, 2001.

Bostrom, Kathleen Long. Winning Authors: Profiles of the Newbery Medallists.  Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2003.

Helbig, Alethea and Agnes Perkins. The Phoenix Award of the Children's Literature Association, 1985-1989. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993.

The Horn Book Magazine publishes acceptance speeches for American Library Association awards. Award acceptance speeches are often powerful essays about authors’ and illustrators’ views on children’s literature.

Karolides, Nicholas J., ed. Censored Books II: Critical Viewpoints, 1985-2000. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Lacy, Lyn Ellen. Art and Design in Children’s Picture Books: An Analysis of Caldecott Award-Winning Illustrations. Chicago: American Library Association, 1986.

Smith, Henrietta M. The Coretta Scott King Awards, 1970-2004. Chicago: American Library Association, 2004.

Woolman, Bertha and Patricia Litsey. The Caldecott Award: The Winners and the Honor Books. Minneapolis: T. S. Denison, 1988.

Zarnowski, Myra, Richard M. Kerper and Julie M. Jensen. The Best in Children’s Nonfiction: Reading, Writing, and Teaching Orbis Pictus Award Books. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2001.


The Newbery Award. Each student will read one Newbery Award winner (the list is available online). The students will then find three essays or articles discussing the issues in the book, and write a paper synthesizing the articles that they found. 

The Caldecott Award. Each student will choose one Caldecott Award Winner (The list is available online), and will do a reading focusing on how the text interacts with the pictures. Perry Nodelman’s “The Relationship of Pictures and Words” will be helpful when analyzing picture books.

Other Award Paper. There are many other awards given to children’s books for many different things. Examples include The Coretta Scott King Award, The Phoenix Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. The students will begin by choosing an award that sounds interesting to them, and researching it. The first part of the paper will explain what the award is given for, who gives the award, how long it has been in existence and anything else that is interesting or important about it. Then the students will read one book that has received that award, and discuss it in light of the issues that have been brought up in class.

The Challenged Book. Each student will choose one children’s book that has been challenged or banned somewhere in America. They will research the nature of the challenge, and then, using specific examples from the book as well as other sources, they will explain their own analysis of the text.


Week 1: Introduction

Preface and Introduction to Part 1

“On Three Ways of Writing for Children” C. S. Lewis

“Precepts, Pleasures and Portents: Changing Emphases in Children’s Literature” Sheila Egoff

Week 2: Historic Ideas of Childhood

 “On the Care Which is Requisite in the Choice of Books for Children” Sarah Trimmer

“Of the Danger of Pleasure” John Huddlestone Wynne

“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” William Wordsworth

 “The Purple Jar,” “The Birthday Present” Maria Edgeworth

Week 3: Recent Ideas of childhood

“Little Angels, Little Monsters: Keeping Childhood Innocent” Marina Warner

“Didacticism in Modern Dress” John Rowe Townsend

“A Child’s Garden of Subversion” Alison Lurie

From The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 Christopher Paul Curtis

Week 4: Picture Books

“The Relationship of Pictures and Words” Perry Nodelman

“Should We Burn Babar?” Herbert R. Kohl

Picture book excerpts in Part 6

Week 5:  Fantasy

“Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” Ursula K. Le Guin

“Liking and Not Liking Fantasy” Perry Nodelman

From The Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum

From Tom’s Midnight Garden Philippa Pearce

Week 6: History

“Realism and Children’s Literature: Notes From a Historical Perspective” Elizabeth Segel

From Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

“Huck, Continued” E. L. Doctorow and David Bradley

“Review of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” William Dean Howells

From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 12, “Tom Shows His Generosity” Mark Twain

Week 7: History, Part 2

“Is that Book Politically Correct? Truth and Trends in Historical Literature for Young People” Hazel Rochman, Masha Kabakow, Diane Stanley

From Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Trusting the Words” Michael Dorris

Week 8: History, Part 3

“Insiders, Outsiders, and the Question of Authenticity: Who Shall Write for African American Children?” Nina Mikkelsen

New Boy in School May Justus

From Nobody’s Family is Going to Change Louise Fitzhugh

Week  9: Gender, Part 1

Introduction to Part 5: “Boys’ Books and Girls’ Books: Gender Issues”

“‘As The Twig is Bent…’ Gender and Childhood Reading” Elizabeth Segel

Fairy Tales: “Cinderella: Saturday Afternoon at the Movies” Louise Bernikow

“Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper” Charles Perrault

“Ashputtle” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Week 10: Gender, Part 2

“Boys Will be Boys: Six Myths of our Time” Marina Warner

From Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson

From The Story of a Bad Boy Thomas Bailey Aldich

Week 11: Sexuality

From Forever… A Novel Judy Blume

From Weetzie Bat Francesca Lia Block

“Am I Blue?” Bruce Coville

From The Man Without a Face Isabelle Holland

Week 12: Censorship in the Classroom

“Teaching Banned Children’s Books” Mark I. West

From A Wrinkle in Time Madeline L’Engle

Week 13: Awarded and Banned: A Case Study

“Hope and Happy Endings” Katherine Paterson

From The Great Gilly Hopkins Katherine Paterson

From Jacob Have I Loved Katherine Paterson

(Further Recommended Reading: Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson)

Return to list of sample syllabi

Sample syllabus prepared by Melody Green

Contact Tina L. Hanlon with questions or comments on this site.

Updated: August 16, 2010   |   Return to Home Page: Crosscurrents of Children's Literature