As a bibliophile (read: nerd), there are really only three things that get my pages turning: challenges to book censorship, initiatives to increase literature's accessibility and the nation's literacy rates, and sexy male librarians. So, when I heard about The Uprise Books Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide underprivileged teens with free new copies of banned books, you can bet your tome that I was up and rising! (…I'm so sorry.)
The project has moved onto Kickstarter, where it hopes to raise $10,000, which would be used to design and develop Uprise's website. Once the site is up and running, teens between the ages of thirteen and eighteen will be able to scroll through a selection of books that have been banned and/or challenged within the United States. After browsing, the teen will compile a personal reading list and, as long as Uprise's income requirements are met, said teen will ultimately receive free copies of the desired books. Those interested in joining the organization's efforts to combat low literacy rates and censorship will have the opportunity to personally sponsor a book, meaning concerned parties will be able to give in a way that is personal to them.
And, if you are wondering why the organization chose to deal exclusively in banned books, their Kickstarter has this to say on the issue:
"First, we simply don't believe in censorship… We think that parents have a right and an obligation to monitor their own child's access to literature they feel might be inappropriate, but they can't control another child's access. By banning and challenging books in schools and libraries, though, they do just that. Second, and most importantly, we think that the idea that these texts have been banned and challenged might motivate these kids to actually read the things. A sixteen-year-old boy might not care that the Radcliffe Publishing Course called The Great Gatsby the best novel of the 20th century, but his inherent teen sense of rebellion might entice him to pick up a book challenged because of its 'language and sexual references.'"
I would have to agree with Uprise's realism; although I find the thought disheartening, a book's "naughtiness" just may be reading's only draw for some teens. There was a reason why my high-school-era reading list was fixated around novels by Colette and Anaïs Nin — and it wasn't just that my mother is French. I think we should all encourage teens' access to banned books if just for the resulting marginalia alone. (If only you could see how many exclamation points I drew in Lady Chatterley's Lover…)