By Dennis Abrams
The all-volunteer, Portland, Oregon based UpRise Books Project is on a mission: to get banned and challenged books directly into the hands of underprivileged middle school and high school students. The reason for this is twofold. One, members of UpRise are vehemently opposed to censorship. And two, and this is where it gets interesting, they firmly believe that the “controversial” subject matter of the books will actually get the kids interested in reading. As it says on their website, “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.‘”
The way it works is simple. The UpRise website contains a list of banned and challenged books provided by organizations such as the ALA and ACLU. When a student between the ages of 13 and 18 who meets certain income requirements finds a book that he or she is interested in, it can be added to a personal Wish List, which is made accessible to potential donors. Justin Stanley, president of UpRise explained to Publishers Weekly that, “Donors will be able to search through the lists of banned books that students have requested and sponsor specific ones based on various criteria. For example, Donor A might really love Slaughterhouse-Five and want to make sure that his money funds just that title. He’ll be able to filter current requests by title and see if any kids have asked for that. If so, he can contribute towards fulfilling requests for that specific book.”
At the present time, Stanley and his staff are footing most of the expenses themselves as they wait to hear from the IRS about their status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, which for now limits their fundraising and grant options. But hopes are high that in time, UpRise will be able to work directly with schools and teachers, both collecting orders and distributing books.
In the meantime, if you’d like to donate to UpRise, visit their page on Kickstarter. Their Kickstarter campaign, with a goal of raising $10,000, is ongoing until November 1.