Written by Laurie Halse Anderson, and published in 1999, Speak won eight state book awards and was a finalist for eleven.
Speak is a book every teenager should read. And not only teenagers, but all parents, as well. In fact, anyone who works with children and/or teens in any capacity would benefit from its message.
The story begins with Melinda Sordino beginning her first day of high school. She has been raped by a boy who goes to her school. She will now have to face him, as well as the girls who used to be her best friends.
At the end of the summer before her freshman year, Melinda and her friend, Rachel, had gone to a party with a group of high school kids.
Everyone was drinking, including Melinda. A senior boy took her away from the crowd and into the woods, where he raped her.
When it was over, she called 911. The cops came and broke up the party, but she didn't report the rape. She left alone, and walked the two miles to her home.
Her friends - or rather, her former friends - are angry with her for calling the police and getting them all into trouble. Some of the kids were arrested.
They don't know the rest of the story. Melinda has told no one.
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Wesley Scroggins, an assistant professor at Missouri State University, is "concerned" about the use of some of the books in the Republic, MO schools. He says they "teach principles contrary to the Bible".
Speak, along with Twenty Boy Summer and Slaughterhouse Five are three that he believes should be removed from the classroom.
The Springfield, MO, News-Leader states that Scroggins has "been concerned for some time what students in the schools are being taught". Earlier in the year, (April, 2010), Scroggins complained about material used in sex education - a pamphlet describing how to avoid contracting HIV.
I do not understand this way of thinking. Do some people have the idea that if rape isn't mentioned, then it doesn't happen?
Denying access to books like this sends the message that rape is not to be talked about - even if it happens to you.
And what about protection from HIV? That's a bad thing??! Would Wesley Scroggins and those who agree with him rather kids did not protect themselves? Oh, I know, I know, "abstinence only". I think we can all see how that's working!
Adults being in denial doesn't change facts. Sex is happening in the teenage world, like it or not. So is rape. And far more often than we imagine.
Let's educate our kids, encourage them to talk, and listen when they do.
I highly recommend this book.
Update: July, 2011
Republic, MO, school board members voted earlier this month to keep Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson's book about date rape.
Two other books, Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler, and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five will be removed from their study program and the school library.
Last year, Wesley Scroggins, who lives in Republic, challenged the use of all three books, because - according to him - they teach "principles contrary to the Bible".
Scroggins congratulated the board for "doing the right thing" in removing the two books, but said it was "unfortunate" they chose to keep the other one.
Superintendent Vern Minor said that Speak has been taught in English courses, and that "support was strong" for the book.
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