School's out. Two months of freedom from school work. What will you do with all that freed up brain space? Read, of course! You'll want books at the beach, books for lazy afternoons on the porch or under a tree, books on long car rides and late nights in bed. So this month, LikeWise features sites dedicated to readers.
First up is teenreads.com. Teenreads offers the Ultimate Reading List of 400 books, interviews with authors and publishing professionals, polls, contests, a blog and monthly book and screen reviews. What I liked most about this venue was the Teen Board. Thirty teens from around the country are chosen by staff for a year long commitment to provide reviews and blog posts, as well as answer reader questions. The site's recommendations include non fiction and adult books.
Next up is Readingteen.net. It features similar content: book reviews, giveaways and blog. But it's run by two mothers and their young adult children with part time reviews by a handful of teens. While there are adult, motherly opinions being offered on their blog, I thought the content was thoughtful and invited discussion. I especially liked this post urging book banners and the banned books' supporters to stop fighting and start listening:
Child Corruptors vs. Nazi Book Burners
At The Library of Congress, you'll find booklists, poetry and free resources. They feature fantastic author webcasts and a gazillion links that probably lead to a gazillion more links so there's no telling what sort of treasure you'll dig up.
Finally, there's Reading Rants, a blog hosted by Middle school librarian Jennifer Hubert. She reviews books for teens but doesn't stick to the YA section and she accepts book suggestions from readers. I love her listed links, which include book reviews by topic, blogs for teens and out-of-the-ordinary authors.
These are just a sampling of the sites I found. Try them out, start a reading list. If you're the type who likes to share books with friends and those friends are away for the summer, join a book club. You can find them at libraries, Nerdfighters, Goodreads or The Guardian. And if you love a book so much you're eager to share it with the world, create a YouTube review. Who knows, you might gather a following, like Jesse the Reader who offers brief book reviews for summer reading below.
September 30 through October 6 is Banned Book Week. Since the event's inception in 1982 over 11,300 books have been challenged, many of them children's books. Among the top one-hundred most challenged books are:
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Giver by Lois Lowry
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
I've read these books. Some of them were hard to read. The Chocolate War was banned partly for unsuitability to age group. I was stunned by the cruelty in that book but I can't imagine it being more relevant than today when bullying has reached a whole new level through social media. Harry Potter was called evil. Yet the overriding message in that series is that love conquers evil. The Giver was accused of degrading motherhood and adolescence. Librarians drew diapers on the naked tot wandering through Sendak's In the Night Kitchen. There are books I'll never read, some I may find offensive. But I want the freedom to choose what I read and I believe school libraries should offer books that stimulate minds and foster conversation, books that children in all situations can relate to.
BannedBooksWeek.org offers a wealth of information for writers, artists, teachers and librarians, including an events page where you can click on your state to find celebrations of banned books. I was delighted to find two events in the Tampa Bay area. One of them led me to an unknown local resource, Bluebird Books, a mobile literary-themed project.
Every week is a good week to read a book. This week, why not choose one from the Top One-hundred Banned Books?
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor