Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Banned Books Week

I write a banned books post every year. Weeks ago I wrote a reminder in my planner to get it written so that I would be able to post it the first day of Banned Books Week. Here it is Tuesday, and I got nothing.

Know why? Because I’ve already written about why it’s so important for us as a society to celebrate our right to read. I even had a few of my teen students share their thoughts on banning books. I’ve written about literature being a light in the darkness, our way to gain knowledge and experience other cultures, other lives, other beliefs, teaching us empathy and compassionate and hopefully, little by little, eradicating our prejudices and ignorance. I wrote about why I read banned books, why I will continue to fight for books, even those books I find offensive and disagree with.

I became a teacher because, as idealistic and na├»ve as it may sound, I truly believe that education—books—can save this world. I believe it is the only thing that can. I love my job and my students so very much—every single day I’m excited to get in the classroom and work with an amazing group of teens. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult, or frustrating, or that some days I don't wish I’d become a plumber because I’d probably make more money and wade through less…excrement. J

But I do my job, day in and day out, because I believe in what I do. I believe in the students that I teach, know the impact they will have on this world, and hope and pray that I am able to impart some wisdom, teach them to think, help them to navigate the harsh realities of this world and see the beauty in it.

I’m fairly quiet online because I am not quiet in my real life. I advocate for my students every single day. They make me better every single day.

Don’t tie my hands behind my back. Let me, as a teacher, use the tools I need. Books truly are a way to show students they are not alone. And they not only find themselves in those pages, but they see the face of humanity, they see those who do not look like them, speak like them, act like them, and they see that they, too, are human. They, too, are worthy of respect and compassion and consideration.

It’s not surprising that the highest percentage of challenged books are young-adult books. But as a teacher, as a writer, as a reader, I’m begging you: Don’t send the message that young-adult books are shameful. In doing so, we tell teens that they are shameful. We take away the chance to have them work through much of what they are experiencing in a safe and controlled way. We take away their chance to find understanding and truth.

I have dedicated my life to books, and I will passionately defend the right of each and every one of you to have access to those books.

Huh. Guess I had more to say than I thought.