Sunday, September 19, 2010
Speaking up for SPEAK
Several years ago I did a unit of Literature Circles with a group of students. The process of Lit Circles has students choose novels and the students who read the same novel work their way through the book together. The few years that I have done this, I usually choose a book and read with a group as well.
One year, I chose to read the novel Speak with a group. That year the group happened to be all girls--there were three of them, and I made member number four.
I remember talking about how sassy Melinda was, how we loved how she nicknamed her teachers, and that we ached for her lonely situation. One of the girls in the group was very artistic and made wonderful art pieces to go along with the book.
I got to "the scene" before the girls did, so I knew what was coming, but I was unprepared for their reaction. They had read that part on their own, and then we were to have a discussion. I remember that day as the girls sat kind of quietly for a while, we didn't really know what to say. Then one of girls looked up at the rest of us and there were tears streaming down her face. We all froze; we all knew what she was trying to say. One of the other girls reached over and grabbed her hand. I knew if she wanted to talk, she would, and I did the only thing I could think of--I read the next part to them. I wanted desperately to show them that Melinda was okay, that she was able to overcome what happened to her. I remember looking up to see those hands clasped together as I read to them. It still chokes me up to this day. A few days later, the girl came up to my desk during class, her copy of Speak in her hands, and asked to go see the counselor. She seemed like a weight had been removed from her shoulders. She never told us her story, she didn't need to, Melinda told it for us.
The power of this novel speaks volumes. Students and teens must have a chance to read this book. Taking this book away from students or calling it "soft porn" is the same ignorance that took Melinda's voice away. We must continue letting this story get to students and the world.
I had the good fortune of meeting Laurie Halse Anderson a few years ago. I wanted to tell her this story of my student, but just got choked up instead. That's the power of this book. It speaks for us--for all of us.
For more information about Laurie Halse Anderson or the article that is misleading people about her book, please visit her blog and please SPEAK up for her book.