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How do you get more kids to get hooked on reading? Give them banned books.
In what is clearly an early favorite for best idea of the year, I just read on the fastcoexist blog about a campaign by Uprise Books to promote literacy among underprivileged youths. How do they plan on doing this? By giving young readers banned books. You know, The Great Gatsby. To Kill A Mockingbird. Probably Catcher in the Rye, too.
The simplicity and beauty of this idea is in the packaging of the idea. “Give Banned Books to Kids” makes me proud to be in marketing, because it does what every job sets out to do: surprise and connect. When a headline like this comes across your desk, you stop, you read it, you talk about it, you share it. I probably own a decent amount of the books on the banned and challenged list; (radicals such as Mark Twain, Aldous Huxley and…Judy Blume?); maybe there’s a way I can donate my old paperbook versions of Catch-22, Invisible Man or The Grapes of Wrath to the cause.
We talk a lot about ideas. But what we don’t stop and think about as often is what exactly is an idea. Today, I’m reminded of the simplest definition I’ve ever heard: at its core, an idea is nothing but a combination of two existing elements. In this case, start with non-reading teens that, because they’re teens, have a healthy rebellious streak. Add classic novels with the cache of being banned. Bring those two elements together, and the result is more kids could discover some of the greatest writing ever and begin to develop a life-long love of reading.
Put down the video game. Pass the Hemingway.