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How literature can teach young readers to build empathy and resilience

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

On this Banned Books Week, an annual nationwide celebration of the freedom to read, we listen back to a conversation about recent book challenges across Iowa and the U.S.

Book challenges in Iowa, and beyond, have been grabbing headlines and sparking controversy in recent months. These challenges have also sparked some important conversations.

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores the literature of the Holocaust, and the importance of reading books written about the Holocaust by those who witnessed the atrocities, with Elka Heckner. Heckner is a lecturer at the University of Iowa in the German department and teaches courses on how the Holocaust is portrayed in literature and film.

Later in the podcast, teacher librarian Chelsea Sims explains how school libraries function. She talks about how books are selected, the transparency that already exists and the processes in place for when a book is challenged. Sims recently decided it was time to pull the curtain back on what school librarians do and the laws, rules and values they follow by writing Iowa School Librarian: How the Book Review Process Already Works for the Iowa Starting Line.

This episode originally aired 2-2-22


  • Elke Heckner, lecturer in the department of German, courses of Holocaust literature and film, University of Iowa
  • Chelsea Sims, teacher, librarian at South East Junior High, Iowa City

Books mentioned in this episode:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Ghetto Diary by Janusz Korczak
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Maus by Art Spiegleman
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered by Ruth Klüger
  • Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.