They are trying to ban SPEAK…. again

I need your help.

This fall, I’ve had a record-number of requests from high school teachers who are using SPEAK in their classrooms, and who are facing formal challenges to have the book removed. People are trying very hard to ban SPEAK. I have information that I share with these teachers (much of it is already on my website), but a couple of them have asked for more.

Specifically, they want to know that they are not alone. So I am going to start a list of school districts in which SPEAK is being taught and post it to my website.

This is where you come in. Please comment here and/or email commentsATwriterladyDOTcom to let me know if SPEAK is being taught at your school. If you are a teacher and would like to share what you do with the book, how your students have responded to it, and how it works in the larger scope of creating literate, intelligent young adults, I would be very grateful. If you are a student – what did you think of the book being taught in the classroom? How did it compare with the other books in your curriculum?

Can you help me out, please? Speak up!

65 Replies to “They are trying to ban SPEAK…. again”

  1. Speak is part of the 9th grade curriculum at arcata high in arcata california. i loved using the book (i no longer teach at the school), and my students enjoyed it as well.

  2. I have been thinking about using it in a college-level (mostly freshmen) Human Sexual Behavior class.

    Is there anyway for people to formally stand in support of Speak? People who are trying to ban it have clearly never read it.

  3. I guess that writing to me here is a way to stand in support of it. Can you think of a better/more efficient/more public way? I am open to suggestion.

    You bring up another good point. SPEAK is taught in many colleges – I should ask for those folks to write in, too.

    Colleges I know of, off the top of my head:

    Arizona State University
    Millersville University
    Viterbo University
    West Chester University

    Where else?

  4. I teach high school English — mostly sophomore and juniors, and mostly the IB (International Baccalaureate) classes, although I’ve taught the range — from “basic” English to the honors classes. I’ve never used Speak as part of my curriculum, but I do have it in my personal classroom library. I have to keep replacing it, actually. It’s the one book I give to kids — boys and girls — who “hate” to read, because it’s the one book I know will win them over. Every single time, they sigh and grudgingly admit that it was good, and they’ll often ask if I have any more books like it. I can’t even get too upset when they keep walking off with it (which is how I feel about all of the books I keep available for them).

    The books I teach in my IB curriculum are challenged ALL THE TIME, so I’m definitely no stranger to censorship.

  5. I wish I had read SPEAK in high school. I would have loved to study that book. Of course, it wasn’t written yet… I think anybody who wants to ban SPEAK doesn’t really know any teenagers.

  6. Can you contact I’m co-chair, with
    Susan Kuklin of PEN AMERICAN CENTER’s Children’s/Young Adult committee, and we can send a letter of support for you to librarians, schools, etc. Fran Manushkin

  7. I don’t know if it’s taught anywhere at Colorado State University, but we had an Intergenerational Reading Program, and that was one of the books. It was used all over the city of Fort Collins, Colorado for that program. I heard about it through my university (CSU).

  8. A google search of the title, your name and “syllabus” yielded (among others):

    Northern State University
    Eastern Michigan University
    Kansas State University

    There are a few high school syllabi as well: Noble High School in North Berwick, ME,. for example. I also found several syllabi without a university name attached.

    I am at the University of South Florida – I used Speak as an optional text choice in a young adult lit class I took as an undergrad, which is why I am considering using it in one of my classes now that I am a Graduate Teaching Assistant.

    I wonder what arguments might be made that says high school students need to be “protected”, but college students are expected to look at literature that may be “objectionable”. What I find distressing is how many 18 year olds come to college completely clueless because they are so protected in junior high and high school. Who are the people who want to ban books *really* trying to protect?

  9. I know that, a couple years ago, it was on a list of permitted books for independent study at my niece’s high school — in a little bitty town in Ontario, Canada, if that helps any. I can ask if they still are using it.

  10. That’s what I was wondering. It’s a fantastic book that even my little brother (who absolutely detests reading) enjoyed.

    Why are they trying to ban it?

  11. After reading “Speak” as part of my Young Adult books project in my library science program, I found out my friend was assigned the book for Human Sexuality here at Kent State U. They had to read both “Speak” and “Inexcusable” by Chris Lynch, and I believe they were assigned a comparative essay.

  12. I read Speak last year in 9th grade. It’s part of the cirrculum for Valley High School.

    I enjoyed it being taught in the classroom. There’s a lot of things that you notice more about the book being taught in the classroom, then if you were just reading it by yourself.

    I really enjoyed the book. Compared to some other books that I’ve read last year, it was the best. It seemed to connect to me and it had a reality to it. I really couldn’t put it down because I kept wanting to know what’d happen to Melinda. It’s kindda hard to explain how close I felt to Melinda. It certainly makes you aware of so many things that can go on in High School, let alone anywhere.

  13. I think “Speak” should be taught in school.
    I came by your LJ to say I got “Twisted” at a local book expo, I read it, didn’t want to put it down. I loved it. I marked some things to quote but I’m holding off until it actually comes out lol

  14. I dont know about now, but when I was a senior (04) they were making some of the freshmen read Speak at Oswego High School. Quite frankly, I was jealous. But then we had to read Catalyst so I wasnt so jealous, just happy.

  15. Fever 1793

    i have just completed reading your historical novel!!! itis so good. i have to do a project on it and i was wondering if u could help me out…. i need to know what city you live in becuase i have to write a letter adressed to you (not really) and it has to be about the book…

    i have one more question…. i have you ever thought about making a movie for Fever… because if you do, i have to go see it:)

    thank you… your my favorite author!!!!!!!

    sincerely middle school student 🙂

  16. Its me Aunt Laurie

    As We all know its being taught in 10th grade in Hannibal High School in New York. And being your niece I get loads of comments about your book. Overall almost everyone, male and female, have come up to me and told me that they love you book. Several of the students told me they went out and bought it. So yeah tell that to your stupid board people trying to ban the greatest book ever!!!!

    April Lynn

  17. When I was in 8th grade(though I am a senior in high school now) my english teacher always had atleast twenty speak books on shelves in her classroom(in massachusetts) available right next to good ‘ole To Kill A Mockingbird, already a banned book. We never read Speak together as a class, though I’m pretty sure almost everyone read it individually. So I can’t really help you, I guess..Were you putting together a list of schools to help support it?

    It is honestly one of the greatest books I have ever ever read. My friends and I still talk about it and I have read it atleast once every year since that faithful day in 8th grade…*sighs lovingly* AND my friends don’t make fun of me when they see me reading it again in study.

    I’m pretty much a fan. I guess you could say that.

    Kudos to you running a 5K. I can’t run.

  18. Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA teaches it. It’s a required text for ninth graders, and the students love it. In the case that it does get challenged by a parent, we remind them that, in addition to having a plot the students love, the novel presents many opportunities for discussions of symbolism (the tree — we have our students make their own trees), dialogue, and point-of-view/narration. We also tend to pair it with the movie during the unit.

    We are lucky to have a “liberal” curriculum director and department chair, but even the more “conservative” teachers and educators fight for the novel.

    It’s loved by students and teachers alike.

  19. Honestly, we were never taught with the book in my school. But I still want to comment, because I think its a great book and that I think it would probably be a good book for school. Its easier to get interested in than a lot of books that you may read in school, and it also has a very good message.


  20. Speak is one of the required books for the Comprehensive Final Exam in the MA and MFA Children’s Literature programs at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. I haven’t heard of a single person in the program yet who hasn’t fallen in love with your book.

    Personally, I think it should be required reading for every high school freshman. I’ve given it to my sister and my cousin and think everyone should read it. Banning it won’t help anyone, but teaching it might.

  21. Speak

    I did my student teaching at New Albany High School in New Albany, Indiana and Speak is a part of their freshman classes. When I taught my practicum lesson to introduce Speak to the class I did graffiti boards with big sheets of poster paper. I got the idea from the lesson plans you have on the website. The students spent an entire class period doing their artwork. It was really good.

    I now teach at Parkview Middle School 8th grade in Jeffersonville, Indiana and I just finished reading the book aloud to my female classes(we are single gender classes). The girls could not wait to see the movie, they even stayed in my classroom during lunch time to finish. Scholastic offered Speak in the flyers this month as well and several girls are buying their own copies. I encourage my students to explore your website and start their own journals whether on-line or in a book.

  22. Speak

    I also forgot to mention that when I was observing classes during my undergraduate classes an 8th grade teacher at Scottsburg Middle School in Scottsburg, Indiana used Speak in her literature circle units.

    I also wanted to mention that several of my advanced students now at Parkview are reading my copy of Prom. I had it in teacher bookcase and they asked to see the book. Before I knew it Prom was flying off of the shelf as soon as someone would return the book.

    I know this is rambling but I know several of the friends that I graduated with also purchased Speak for their classroom libraries. So there are students in Crawford County, Indiana; Paoli, Indiana; Spencer County, Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky; Austin, Indiana; and Salem, Indiana who have Speak available to them at school.

    I hope this helps..

  23. When I was a freshman, I recommended the book to my high school English teacher, and she rallied to have it added to the curriculum. They started teaching it when I was a junior (2004), so I know for sure that they use it at Susquehanna Valley HS in Conklin, New York. 🙂

  24. Speak is taught at McMinnville High School in McMinnville, Oregon as part of the 9th grade curriculum. I’m a sophomore this year, and when my class read it last year it was by far the most popular book that we read in the class. It worked really well in our class because we could relate to some of Melinda’s struggles, unlike most other books that we read as a class.

  25. I first heard about Speak because a friend from grad school (Teachers College in NYC) was using it in her 9th grade class in Washington Heights. She was a student teacher at the time and I know of at least three other student teachers who taught Speak to students in various parts of the city. They all loved it and planned to use it in their own classrooms. Speak is all the rage at Teachers College–probably NYU as well–so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it popping up more and more classrooms throughout the region.

  26. They are helping themselves, because they don’t know how to explain painful, scary, crappy things about life to their kids. They are afraid and this is their response.

  27. venice senior high

    Mr.Hadley’s 10th grade English class used Speak. We also used Brave New World, Slaugherhouse Five, Julius Caesar, Catcher in the Rye, The Da Vinci Code, etc. We had dicussions about high school stereotypes, cliques, the use of symbolism and clues about IT. We did more, but I don’t have any of my work to look through. This was at Venice Senior High School, Los Angeles CA. I’m not sure if it’s still going to be in curriculum, but we definitely liked it last year. It wasn’t unusual to read it among the other books, but I guess that’s because we chose both classics and comtemporary favorites. It was very refreshing to read it.

    It was the third time I read Speak at that time, and each time I found a lot more than I saw before. So each time I felt a bigger impact. Very few books can do that for me.


  28. At first I didn’t realize it wasn’t out yet because it didn’t say “Advanced copy” or anything along those lines so I was all set to go downstairs and start typing out the quotes, then I saw the release date, alas it made me sad I couldn’t. But I’m leaving it on my desk until the day it comes out and then I will.

    (I also loved “Speak” and “Fever 1793” although I read them before I started quoting.)

  29. speak is taught in my school

    I loved the fact that it was taught in my school. I thought it was a very nice change from the classics because it was something real you know what I mean? Teachers have always taught me that literture is about the human experience. The traumatic human experience which Melinda suffered is something that not only teens but all people read about. I’m sure speak helped others to find their voice just like Melinda did and that’s the most important thing. – Jessica

  30. New Kingsington/Arnold (since the towns are so close, the school district is combined) in Pennsylvania.

    I hope that they don’t ban it. It’s an amazing book.

  31. Yes, we Speak!

    I teach YA lit. and 11th grade English at Knightdale High School in the Wake County School System in NC. I teach Speak in my YA lit. class and in my 11th grade English class.

    My students love the novel; one of my favorite activities to have my students write a one-page speech about something important to them. It’s a nice pre-cursor to the novel when we talk about what the title could mean. The chance for them to rant/rave about something is a chance they do not receive very often and they relish it. I hear a range of speeches–prositution in Cambodia…anti-fur…pro-dealth penalty…anti-all human kind. Some dread it, but I like that they have to get in front of the room and say something. I’m sorry to hear that some schools are trying to ban it–I consider it one of the most well written young adult novels I teach. Before I teach Catcher in the Rye, I always have the “talk” with my students. I explain to them what censorship is and why it occurs and I tell them, several times, that they can back out any time. Then I cross my fingers and hope that they’ll take the journey with me, regardless of the bad words in the novel. This semester, no one called foul. They got through it and now that we’re reading Speak, they’ve fallen in love. They discuss and delve deep. It’s one of two required YA novels on our 11th grade curriculum.

    I hope this helps!

    Michele DeCamp

  32. I’m not in high school anymore, but I want to say something about this, and I’m pretty sure that my school wouldn’t have banned Speak. They might even have it in their library. Anyway, I think banning books is seriously wrong and that, especially at the high school level, students are more than capable of choosing their own reading material. I’m behind Speak 100%. 🙂

  33. speak

    speak is one of the best books i’ve ever read and if any one tries to band it show them this comment because i love all your work and speak is the best and it is truely inspirational to teach girls to speak up and no matter how bad something is tell some one. you are truely a novelist and i can’t wait if you do anymore chapter books.

  34. Actually- like most controversies—the BANNING of SPEAK will only encourage teenagers to find a way to read it no matter what the odds.

    (Best way to get a kid interested is to say “NO!”)

    Which of course is a good thing since it’s a book that NEEDS to be read.

    It also helps in that its not only under 200 pages in length, it’s also spread out on the page in an easy format that’s easy on the eyes. Very much like the comments here…easy to read them all in one sitting even though they number over 40 comments as of this afternoon!

    Laurie, you also wrote quite a powerful book (which is why it keeps selling)

    Hang tight- nobody wins a fight without some mess.

  35. Hey, turtle! I teach _Speak_ in in my Adolescent Lit classes at Eastern Connecticut State University. It’s always a favorite. Many of my students go out into the world to teach it in high school or, in a few very blue districts, seventh or eighth grade.

    Great that you’re keeping this interactive journal, Laurie. I just stumbled on it while searching for something else. Thanks a lot for another wonderful place that I’ll just have to visit every day before getting to work.

    We’re still in Thailand on the Fulbright and blogging the experience at or


  36. I’m a Freshman in college now, but my high school definitely taught that book. My 10th grade English teacher taught it and still does along with all the other sophomore teachers. My school district is pretty big too. I went to Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ohio. (the school that George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind bill)

    I thought the book was amazing! It is the only book that I can really remember reading and had an impact on me.


  37. I believe one English course at the University of Buffalo is using Speak, but I can’t remember which class.

  38. The school is Central Elgin Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas, Ontario. I didn’t see my niece this weekend, as she was at her grandparents, but if I see her I’ll ask her if they are still using it.

  39. I was under the impression that people were beyond banning books, but I guess that’s not the case in these days. Reading the reviews on sites such as, alot of the negative reviews consist of people complaining about the language or the subject matter. And I wouldn’t be surprise if these were the same people who let their kids watch MTV or go on the internet. I’d rather let my future children read a book about a real life situation then watch half-naked people dance in a rap video. But hey! That’s just my opinion.

    People need to stop shielding their kids from reality. It’s not going to have a pretty after effect once they go out into the real world. I understand parents wanting to protect their children. But there’s being normal about it, and being over protective of them. Reality isn’t scary. It can be a beautiful thing too.

    And banning books? If you don’t want your child to read a book, then tell them that. Send a letter to the teacher telling them you don’t want your said child to read the book. Don’t punish everyone else because of your damned morals.

  40. SPEAK is an option for the 9th grade literature curriculum in Norman Oklahoma. I taught it as a student teacher and it was fabulous. I ended up having some really intense and interesting conversations with the students about sexual harrassment, sexual assault, and rape… these were 9th graders, mind you!! The students loved the sarcasm in the book and the way it depicted high school — I think it was great for them to read about being an underdog and feeling uncertain about how to fit into high school culture. The short chapters were easy to digest for slower learners and I remember, overall, finding it an incredibly satisfying experience. It’s still one of my favorite reads and I recommend it to people all of the time. It’s a shame this book is on the chopping block with so many other incredibly worthy young adult texts that aren’t afraid to deal with serious and scary issues.

  41. Re: speak is taught in my school

    For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of your school, though I can see it in my mind’s eye, and the library down the road where I got to meet your classmates. What is the name of it?

    And how is this year going for you?

  42. Re: speak is taught in my school

    it’s the one and only sheepshead bay high school. this year is going great for me I take my PSAt next week and I’m in Ap American and government and honors english of course.

  43. Athens Ohio Supports You

    Athens Middle School is reading the novel and watching the film in its class. I am a future educator and will teach Speak in my curriculum. It’s a novel that all teens need to read to understand the trauma that date rape can come with, but also how people need to stand up for who they are and what they believe in, the basis of our entire country.
    Thomas Ogilvie
    Class Of 2008
    Ohio University

  44. Oh, nice. I’m a Hollins alum for undergrand, and I didn’t know that Speak was a req for that program.

    I teach 4th grade, so the book is over my student’s level, especially since they’re native Spanish speakers. But if I ever decide to get certified to teach high school, I’d do anything I could to use that book in my classroom.

  45. Speak in the Classroom

    We are using SPEAK in our college on-line class at Minnesota State University Mankato. This is a profound book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I am a mother of four and I found the whole high school thinking of Melinda so real when I look at my teenagers. Great Book!

  46. SPEAK

    I was introduced to your book by the movie it was made into that I saw on liftime. Aparently people arent thrilled by it, because i’ve been idly looking for a copy in my school library since fifth grade. They had it but I guess the school banned it here too. Now, finally, in eighth grade, I was able to get it through a book order. I am currently reading it. It is a very powerful peice of literiture. I loved how much I (and problably most teenagers as well) could relate to Melisa.I am pretty much a nonconfornmist and can tell you it is very hard. I belive it contains a message that all should hear. I am sorry to hear that some dont agree.

  47. Don’t ban Speak!

    I’ve just finished Speak for a school assignment with three other students in my class. We are thirteen and fourteen. True, this book is heavy material, but I think that this is necessary for students to learn, because the type of things that happened to Melinda happen in the real world, and sadly they happen to the people that are young! If middle school students can handle the material that Speak deals with, then high schoolers should be able to. This book deals with a real issue that students should not be ignorant of, and we should know what happens and that it has a serious effect on people. This is the first book that we’re reading in the curriculum so far, but I know that the reviews we’ve done with our teacher and in our groups will definitely leave a positive mark on us, and this section will definitely be better than the other sections, I’m sure of it. I’m absolutely fine with speak being taught in schools, and teachers should continue teaching it. This is a great, but heavy book that should be taught in schools. I go to the American School in London, so you can add that school to your list of schools that teach Speak.

  48. Speak is being taught as part of the ninth grad curriculum at Coventry High School in Coventry, CT.

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