Each year, the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize awards five prizes of $2,500 each to individuals and institutions that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. The National Book Foundation is proud to recognize the Uprise Books Project as a winner of the 2013 Innovations in Reading Prize.
The Uprise Books Project was founded in 2011 with a very simple mission: to encourage underprivileged teens to read by providing them with new banned and challenged books.
Why banned and challenged books? There are a couple of big hurdles when it comes to getting teens to read. Simply getting kids access to books is the first step; kids in poorer neighborhoods tend to have fewer books in the home, they tend to live further from public libraries, and they often attend poorly funded schools.
But just giving teens books isn’t enough. Between family obligations (many are parents themselves), below-standard reading skills, and an environment that discourages anything close to intellectual activities, many disadvantaged teens need a better reason to read than simply being told “it’s good for you.”
The folks at Uprise believe that the “forbidden fruit” angle of banned and challenged literature could provide that motivation. Anyone who’s ever been a teenager knows that one of the best ways to pique their curiosity about something is to tell them they aren’t allowed to know about it, so why not use that trait for good? The same kid who couldn’t care less that the Modern Library calls The Great Gatsby one of the best novels of the twentieth century might jump at a book challenged for its “language and sexual references.” And judging by the feedback Uprise has received after giving books to a few hundred teens, they think they just might be onto something.