Teens: Shout Out a Rebel Yell For Banned Books, Year-Round!

1stamendposters2_copy.jpgThe creative director in me absolutely LOVES the artistic execution of this “banned book” poster’s clean design and clever word play…

The media maven in me is wincing at the notion that some child will log it into cogent memory in some form of accuracy, like “Kute Kids Kuts” or “Krispy Kreme.” (since very few children I’ve encountered lately have an aptitude akin to Akeelah and the Bee or Spellbound)

But as “banned book week” comes to a close, I’ll offer that media educators have some huge opportunities for year-round engagement here (not just a given author’s ‘readout week’) as ALA and YALSA’s Teen Read Week have paved the way for Freedom READERS as well as Freedom Writers, with banned books popping up in ALA virtual world immersion groups, social media sites, and all kinds of digital dialogues!

Hats off to the cadre of teen librarians and hipster teachers for taking a page out of the corporate marketing playbook to promote “contraband” and engage kids in entertaining ways! Teen Second Life virtual worlds , Facebook, and MySpace, are all getting the banned book, “pirate” themed treatment…Now let’s use these new media tactics EVERYday, not just one week a year, to give a hearty boost to some classic kid-lit!

There’s a reason why the term ‘forbidden fruit’ is part of every parent’s lexicon. I’m an anti-censorship type, so you’d think I’d wise up, since I don’t ‘forbid’ but I do ‘disdain’ which only serves to sweeten the rebellion all the more…

Advertisers not only know this, they leverage it as a marketing motivator to pop sales sky high giving kids the illusion of being edgy and subversive. banned-books-avatar.jpgFrom music lyrics and provocative name brands to packaging and fashion, it’s all being ‘sold’ to kids as limit-testing, rule-breaking developmental angst that often lasts long past puberty.

I’m SO thrilled to see ALA and YALSA venture into the avatar media messaging in Teen Second Life and the Office for Intellectual Freedom to engage kids fully, because you’ve gotta ‘fish where the fish are.’

You’d think parents would ‘curb thy tongue’ and hush about the media offerings, but there’s so much CRUD out there, it’s hard not to roll the eyes and mumble unintelligibly…even though I know good and well editorial comment provokes backlash, and only serves to create delicious enticement for teens and tweens.

I learned some of this the hard way as a parent pundit in the biz doing the ol’ “TV will rot your brain” song-n-dance. (Quelle surprise!–It’s the first media my tween chooses to wind down with) I realize now that even as a “media literate” parent, you can get blindsided by your own prejudices of what’s worthy…So?

I’m urging all adults to deconstruct your own behavior before ‘banning books and media’ in your own homes. That’s right. Check it at the door. Tabula rasa. Clean slate the reaction. Listen and hear…

I’m not saying kids should have carte blanche to over-ride age ratings and guidelines with know-it-all savvy, junk is junk, and some books “you just shouldn’t read,” not because they’re banned, but because they’re poorly written.

Like any media, I do a ‘cost benefit analysis’ of brain cells to time spent because I’m fiercely protective of my leisure hours. Chances are, kids are even tougher to snag, since continuous partial attention has become the multitasking mindset of yore. Media needs to ‘grab ‘em early and fast’ to sustain pleasure reading in this sound bite world…

But sometimes our own values and concerns cloud the issue, obfuscate kids’ intentions, and launch us into ‘over-react’ mode. (which will sound vaguely familiar if you’ve ever heard a teen hum along to hip-hop lyrics and flipped out unaware that they were bopping to the tune without ever hearing a word uttered)

My own daughter is a textbook case in point of dismissively abandoning ANY ‘tough to get into’ hefty tome or ‘book club pick’ (and if it’s on the school reading list, it’s a double-whammy) yet she heartily favors what I used to consider, ‘fluff.’

Mind you, she adores the conversational writing style of author Natasha Friend who wrote Perfect, Lush, and Bounce. I’ll admit my eyebrows raised a tad, since the content of these books deal with eating disorders, alcoholism, and step-family integration, in that order. Hmn…“Whassup wit dat?” as the kids might say.

The logical side of me countered, “hey, she’s now READING…voluntarily! No nagging!”

Whew. Thankfully, folks like readergirlz and YALSA’s Teen Read Week crew give us all reassuring exhales, cautioning adults on ‘overthink’ tendencies since content like this is challenging youth synapses and not any true indication of “wannabe” practices nor social indication of leap-frogging into danger zones.

I’m appreciative being ‘in the media biz’ for access to such powerhouse deconstruction, though as a parent, my gut instinct plays a huge role too…we tell ourselves “it’s gonna be okay” and learn this is real…

In delving deeper, it was interesting to note that author Natasha Friend actually loves the same book, “Last of the Great Whangdoodles” an epic fantasy piece that Julie Andrews wrote and my daughter and I adored…She also has a thing for pink tulips, as do I, and there are many other less than obvious commonalities…

So consider this…What if I’d have reacted in a tenor of “ban that book” instead of “Hmn, interesting choice…?”

Yep. Exactly. You see my point then.

Let “fREADom” ring!!!

A few comments from teens on readergirlz “What People Are Saying” column about pleasure reading:

What People are Saying:

“By supporting Teen Read Week, readergirlz makes a statement to teens that reading is an essential and fun part of teens’ busy lives.” – Paula Brehm-Heeger, YALSA President

“Inspiring teens to read is one of the most important things we can do for the future. What teens imagine, they will create.” – KL Going, St. Iggy

“You! Slowly move away from that TiVo . . . Now pick up that novel and let your brain indulge . . .” – Gaby Triana, Cubanita

“One of my greatest joys is opening a reader email; telling me they’ve never finished a book before, but finished mine in record time, and could I please recommend other books? Reading empowers.” – Ellen Hopkins, Crank

“Reading = cooler than doing nothing. It’s exercise for the mind (even nicer when served up with a side of chocolate).” – Rachel Cohn, Gingerbread

“I know what I loved about reading when I was a teenager: it made me feel grown up. I could travel anywhere, be anyone, and do anything. I loved that freedom and exploring those worlds. Teen Read Week is a great celebration of that, and a great reminder to teens that those voyages are there for the taking, right inside a book.” —Cecil Castellucci, Boy Proof



  1. Minh Kirwan says

    The Hellboy movies were also completely amazing. Even if you don’t care that it’s based off of a comic, it’s still an incredible story and the creature effects are out of this world. Del Toro is truly a genius and anything that he touches is platinum.

Speak Your Mind