What do John Green, J.K. Rowling, and Suzanne Collins all have in common?
Besides the fact that they’re all famous young adult authors whose books millions of teenagers across the country love reading, they also all have written books that have been challenged for their content.
Banned Books Week is an annual campaign created by the American Library Association that shines light on challenged authors and books, celebrates the freedom to read, and challenges the attempts made by schools and other organizations to censor certain texts.
This year’s Banned Books Week took place from September 23-29. During this week-long event, librarians across America displayed varieties of books published by banned authors and hosted book talks.
However, this year, a different approach was taken to bring awareness to the campaign. Librarians encouraged students to write letters to the authors about how their novels inspired them and, in turn, inspire the writers to continue writing novels with controversial topics.
“The authors are writing books for teenagers, and when these books are challenged, their voices are being taken away,” said Devyn Reynolds, OVS Upper Campus’ new librarian. “This is basically fighting against having their voices oppressed.”
Ms. Reynolds organized a number of other different activities to get students to participate, like a book talk at Milk & Crackers talking about two very popular books that have been continuously challenged: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
Besides writing letters, there were a number of other ways students could participate. The most important way was to buy and read the novels, but teenagers could also reach out to their favorite authors on social media who actively communicate with their fans.
OVS freshman CatieJo Larkin tweeted using the hashtag #DearBannedAuthor to celebrate The Giver by Lois Lowry. OVS sophomore Kiana Carlisle wrote a letter to author John Green in her weekly blogpost.
“I wrote to John Green because Looking For Alaska had a impact on my life and seeing it being one of the most challenged book of 2015 was upsetting,” Kiana said. “Looking For Alaska deserves to be read.”
Additionally, other teachers on campus have encouraged their students to participate. College counselor, journalism instructor and history teacher Fred Alvarez offered extra credit to his Humanities students willing to write a letter.
Since the Humanities class spends so much time talking about the importance and power of writing, Mr. Alvarez thought it made perfect sense to do a short lesson on the dangers of censorship and to offer the extra credit opportunity to his students.
“I wish more people would’ve taken advantage of it,” Mr. Alvarez said. “This is a fantastic project and those students who wrote letters to authors got a valuable lesson about censorship and freedom of speech.”
Banned Books Week may only be one week out of the year, but the problem it’s tackling is year round. Students can still find ways to support their favorite authors.
“By coming to the library and picking books up to read, hopefully [students] will start checking out different books and expanding what their world view is through the books that have been published and, hopefully, they’ll encourage others to pick them up too,” Ms. Reynolds said. “Just reading these books constantly, not just this week, but throughout the year is the best way to participate.”Share