I had only been a school librarian for a few years when a school in a neighboring county had a high profile materials challenge involving Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk. Area libraries and Crutcher responded by planning some related events coinciding with the 2005 Banned Books Week, and his stops included our local public library. When one of my teachers saw the promotional poster I’d created for Crutcher’s speech, she echoed my belief that limiting access to anything sets a dangerous precedent. We were both eager to capitalize on the opportunity for her students to hear the renowned author and re-imagined her twelfth grade research paper as case studies in censorship.
The project was successful beyond our wildest expectations in engaging students intellectually and promoting conversation about fundamental rights. Though the event with Crutcher was remote from campus and held in the evening, the majority of the class attended the lecture. He was gracious enough to pose with our students afterwards (above). Crutcher’s talk that night made me understand the needs of young people to see their experiences reflected in literature. As he spoke about his background as a family therapist and the many ways in which his books reflect the lived experience of young people and offer support for those who needed it, it galvanized my belief in intellectual freedom as a fundamental aspect of youth services.