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On Banned Books Week and Beyond, Say YA to Reading

Matt de la PenaEvery day in middle schools and high schools across America, teachers and librarians provide access to young adult literature for their students. These teachers are not just providing books for their students;  they are committing an act of love and courage.  Love for their students and courage in knowing they will bear the burden of constantly having to defend the merits of this literature to parents, administrators, and even other teachers.

This week we “celebrated” Banned Books Week with an emphasis on young adult literature. I always thought celebrate was strange verb to use for a week dedicated to bringing awareness to the insidiousness of censorship. But I think I get it now. We’re not just bringing awareness to the books themselves, but also to the brave souls who fight to keep these books in kids’ hands. This is a week to give high fives, fist bumps, and in the words of Matt de la Peña, bow down to those fighting the good fight.

And so we celebrate.

We celebrate teachers like Brian Wyzlic who, at his Catholic high school in Michigan, brings the faith of his school community into the conversation with parents about why he will not censor books in his classroom.

We celebrate students like Brady Kissel, who distributed  free copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian after the book was removed from a  school reading list due to parent complaints.

We celebrate authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, winner of this year’s Intellectual Freedom Award, who frequently speaks out against censorship:

“I worry about the teachers and librarians who are [in] danger of losing their jobs and I worry about the students being denied access to a good book that has saved lives… Book banners make me fight harder.”

 

As we close out this celebration of Banned Books Week, let’s keep saying YA to reading. Heck, let’s shout it. Shout it until it is no longer an act of courage, only one of love.

If you want to read more about the ways teachers are celebrating young adult literature in their classrooms, below you will see I have curated some tweets from our recent #nctechat on Twitter. Or if you’d like even more  you can visit the entire Storify archive here.