Monday, November 15, 2010

Teens Take a Stand...

Tom Dalton wrote an article on November 10th about students in Salem who staged an all-night reading of Banned Books in celebration of their freedom to do so.  
Jefell Campos, a junior at Salem Academy Charter School, drew stares yesterday as he walked down the school corridor.
"I decided to go all out," said the 17-year-old, who was wearing red, white and blue one-piece pajamas and a Patriots stocking cap with dangling dreadlocks.
On most days, Campos would have been sent home.
But yesterday, he was a celebrity — one of 40 seniors and juniors taking part in "Banned Books Jim-Jam!" a nonstop reading of banned or controversial books. It was part educational sleepover ("Jim-Jam" is British slang for pajama party) and part living lesson about a precious freedom.
When I read this, I smiled, something which happens all too little these days as censorship and literary challenges become ever more prevalent, and for worse reasons than ever.  The students heard of one incident in which a book was banned because the last name of the author could be confused with a Marxist writer.
"Just because your last name is a communist's name, why would you ban a book?" [Campos] said. "This country is getting stupider. People's freedom of speech is being taken advantage of, and I think it's time for people to stand up and say, 'Enough!'"
These students reminded me that some young people actually care about their freedoms; they don't take it for granted and forget that it is something to celebrate and appreciate.  I wish more schools would partake in such activities, but for now I will have to be satisfied with the work of one such institution.

Even more impressive is that teachers were involved as well!
It was 15 straight hours of public reading, by teachers and students, from the American Library Association's list of books that have been banned, restricted or challenged in communities across the United States. [emphasis added]
 The students read from a number of books throughout the night, being kept awake with Red Bull, sub sandwiches, and popcorn.  They were even treated to a pancake breakfast in the morning before they went away to catch up on sleep.  The following books are a sample of what they read from over the course of the event:
The Color Purple
A Separate Peace
The Kite Runner
The Call of the Wild
Of Mice and Men
Brave New World
To Kill a Mockingbird

It's great to finally hear a positive story of students standing up for their rights to read literature with important ideas and for them to realize that this right is important enough to stand up for.  They did have fun as well, but that's part of the appreciation.  Have you seen this sort of event put on by schools near you?  Or even in libraries or other institutions?  It would be great to hear if this sort of event is happening in other places throughout the world.  As always, thanks for reading!

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