“The Uprise Books Project is dedicated to ending the cycle of poverty through literacy, providing new banned and challenged books to underprivileged teens free of charge. In a nutshell, lower-income middle school and high school students can select banned and challenged books on our site, and we take care of finding contributors willing to pick up the tab.”
On their blog, they make an economic based argument that by sending these books to lower income teens they hope to encourage them to finish high school and go on to college. The higher the education, the larger the lifetime earning, the less likely to continue the cycle of poverty and essentially moving onto a higher economic status. (They didn’t make those last two points, but I figured they were the next logical steps.) On its face, that position makes sense to me; even in my skepticism, they note that making a change in the life of one teen pays for the other books sent out over the course of a lifetime. Perhaps that notion holds a shotgun mentality to it (the more area covered in pellets, the better), but I can appreciate the idea of doing something rather than nothing.
So, why focus on sending banned or challenged books rather than any kind of literature? I asked myself the same thing and they had what I felt was a clever answer to that.
More importantly, we think that the idea that these texts have been banned and challenged will motivate kids to actually read the things.
Ah, the lure of forbidden fruit. The best kind, some would say.
In reading through their Kickstarter page, listening to their pitch, and reading their website, I have some reservations. I’m curious as to how the inevitable question regarding the role of parents (or lack of role, in some cases) will come into play. Will parents be a part of this process as a way to get their kids to read books that they feel they should be allowed to read but otherwise couldn’t afford? Will kids or teens be allowed to select or receive books without parental consent? For kids that don’t want to get books at their homes (or have temporary living arrangements), how will the books get to them?
There is a certain amount of dangerousness to this project, but I don’t think that it is a disqualification for support. In fact, I’d say that the project should be expanded to children and teens in crisis looking for books that reflect their situation, whether it is coming out as gay, dealing with domestic violence or sexual abuse, or coping with self destructive behaviors. I’d argue that those groups run the same risk as the children and teens in poverty since they are less likely to achieve higher education degrees without some form of intervention. (The teens killing themselves over their sexuality, their psychological problems, and their inability to cope do not even make it to the lifetime earning list.) I hope that this project may pivot to provide for those teens in the future, but in the meantime it does look to make inroads on behalf of literacy and the elimination of poverty.
Even with some concerns, I have pledged to support this Kickstarter campaign and I would hope you would consider doing so as well. I am doing so for a couple of reasons. First, I feel that good ideas need to be supported. I’m not simply investing in this idea, I’m investing in the ideas to follow that look to put books into the hands of people who need them for any number of reasons (including how I’d like to see the program expand). As I said, it’s not perfect but it is good enough for me to warrant a financial pledge. Second, I’m curious to see how this project shapes up. I’d like to eventually become a donor who sends books to kids and teens who asking for my help. I’m really wondering if the ‘forbidden fruit’ angle will yield results as they hope; in putting on my scientist hat, I’d like to see how this experiment proceeds. To do so, I need to invest in it.
Finally, when I was in high school, I read the book The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It was not a source of controversy in my high school, my community, or my home even though unbeknownst to me it was being challenged at the time. It was, for me, an eye opener. It began my own personal journey to try to understand people from their perspectives and viewpoints, to put myself in their shoes, and to gain a better understanding of the world we live and the beliefs held within. It really changed my life. If a challenged book like that could do the same for another teen out there, I’d love to be the one to put that book into their hands.
I hope you’ll join me in supporting this project. I believe they certainly are worth it.