Education Opinion

Literature Is Our Network: Speak Loudly for Speak

By Donalyn Miller — September 19, 2010 2 min read
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This morning, I sat down with my cup of coffee, opened Twitter, and discovered a firestorm of outrage. Wesley Scroggins, a professor in Missouri, proclaiming that Laurie Halse Anderson’s provocative book, Speak, contains “soft core pornography” is leading a charge to get the book banned in his community. Hundreds of readers, teachers, librarians, and authors are showing their support for Laurie and her work--as well as speaking out against banning books in general--by posting their thoughts on blogs and the Twitter hash tag, #speakloudly. Author Myra McEntire shares her Christian beliefs and her support of Anderson’s book. Author Cheryl Rainfield, a rape victim, explains why books like Speak matter to children without a voice. On her own blog, Laurie Halse Anderson addresses Scroggins’ claims, and provides resources for people who want to show their support for our children’s right to read. In the post, watch Anderson’s reading of “Listen,” a poem she wrote about the reader responses to Speak she has received from scores of readers over the years.

For those who have not read Speak, the book tells the story of a teenage girl who is raped and refuses to tell anyone because she does not think anyone will believe her. Announcing that rape is in any way sexually pleasurable by declaring it “pornography” shows a serious lack of judgment and promotes a culture where victims of rape feel somehow responsible for what happens to them. Rape is about violence, not sex. It’s true that Speak‘s topic is painful and hard to deal with, but as adults we must admit that many girls (and boys) are rape victims and that many rape incidents go unreported because of fear. As a mother of two girls, I want my daughters to read books like Speak, so my children know they have a voice.

I don’t understand the interest in banning books. Literature was our network long before Twitter and Facebook existed and it continues to connect us, inform us, and show us that we are not alone. Young people experience rough things: drugs, rape, abuse, poverty, and violence. How old do you have to be before you can read books about your life? Banning books about provocative topics does not solve these social issues. Banning books increases ignorance and closes dialogue about these issues.

One other thing banning books increases--sales. Declaring a book inappropriate spurs people to run to the bookstore and buy it.

If you don’t want your children to read books like Speak, I support your right to parent your child as you wish and monitor the books they read. Read and discuss these books with your child. I expect you to trust me to do the same with my own children.

As we honor challenged literature next week during the American Library Association’s observance of Banned Book Week, let’s show our support for the books that edify young people and the adults in their lives. Read a banned book, share a banned book, buy a banned book, or check a banned book out of the library. Express our freedom to read what we want in a country where others may not infringe upon that right.

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.