For One Chance to #SpeakLoudly

The response to #SpeakLoudly has been so amazing over the last day and a half and it has certainly been enough to follow/track tweets, host the live interaction on the feed last night, keep up a vigorous reading schedule. . .you get the point I am sure. I had no idea that the YA reading and writing community would come together as it has in past day and a half.

If you keep Twitter open to the #SpeakLoudly tab, you will see it just keeps updating itself.  Scores of tweets coming in for support of Laurie Halse Anderson’s (who surely will not #FF Mr. Hankins now that he has created a meme of this magnitude) book, Speak. More than this, the community has come together to share stories. . .and this was the part I had not expected.

Over seventy blog posts came in within the first day of #SpeakLoudly. Some were highly charged and highly personal. I have seen blogs with authors discussing their own experiences with the real world hurts we often find in the YA literature that gets challenged. For every blog like Myra McEntire’s and Cheryl Rainfield’s, there must be–I believe this to be painfully true–a number of  stories that our young people are not telling. A Sunday in September for some has been an opportunity to share that story in the safe place (?) that is Twitter. The community has rallied around these writers with RTs and messages of support.

I was abandoned in the backseat of a car by my mother. My aunt driving by the bar–in a moment of pure fate–recognized my blue hat in the back seat bobbing up and down. My maternal grandmother had to call my father to tell him to “come and get Paullie; his mother is unfit to care for him.” In the summer of 1979, I was repetitively harassed and physically/sexually abused by my father’s stepfather, a man who abused most each and everyone of his children and grandchildren at some point. When I finally found the voice to speak of these abuses, the family took his side. My abuser’s name was Lloyd. He was a monster. I did not attend his funeral, when Lloyd went to sleep one morning and–in a moment of earthly justice–choked to death when his dentures slipped back into his mouth blocking his airway. There are a number of stories that will never be told of what this man did to his family. But you know this one.

I have worn many hats in the last 22 years since I’ve graduated high school (do the math, Tweeps; it’s okay). I’ve been a studio engineer and producer of a morning show, a sailor/corpsman with the U. S. Navy, a bartender, a direct care giver for people with disabilities, a Long Term Care Facility Activity Director, a pastor, and a teacher. I have seen public hurts. I have held the hand of a man dying of AIDS waiting to see if his sister would come before he took his last breath. I have walked with the confused in an attempt to find a small glimmer of clarity. I have spun monsters in my arms in an attempt to bring forth a little laughter and mirth. I have counseled with the sinner and celebrated with saints. But nothing compares to the feelings I have felt in the last day as I watch this community of writers and teachers–a group with whom I am most proud to claim membership–come together in support of just one author. . .and just one book. Stories are powerful. There is healing in the sharing of words with just one other person who will listen, if only to touch their chins to their chest over and over, saying silently. . .”say more.”

Is there anyone among us at #SpeakLoudly that doesn’t believe that Laurie Halse Anderson has been most deserving of this response from the Twitter community. Found within the “din” of the multiple RTs that continue to post at the thread have been multiple anecdotes of teachers who have used Speak in their classroom. The very first response to #SpeakLoudly was from a classroom teacher who had read this book with her students. As I sat in my big green reading chair Sunday morning, I was thinking of other hashtags that had gone nowhere in the past. I had hoped against hope that this one would take. . .because of what was at stake. Speak is not only a book that warrants its place on the shelf, but this teacher says it is time to recognize Speak’s place within the canon of literature.

I thank each and every person who has responded to #SpeakLoudly. Your stories have touched me. The multitudes of avatars with the Speak Loudly Twibbon is a powerful image indeed. The generosity displayed with the giveaways on the different blogs could only help our cause.  Mentions of Speak Loudly in papers and in radio interviews today have touched me in ways I cannot describe. . .and you have done this. . .all of  you.

I have no doubt that many of us were angered by Scroggins’ attacks on Laurie’s book this weekend. I have no doubt that this might have resulted in multiple Tweets as each person weighed in with their opinions, feelings, and sentiments. Speak Loudly helped us to do this together, in a forum. In the past day, I feel like you have invited me into your writing place, offices and dens across the country. A kitchen table or two. The big green chair in the living room in Floyds Knobs. We have had our chance to Speak Loudly. So now what?

To #SpeakLoudly means no more notes passed in faculty meetings or hushed whispers about “that teacher who is teaching that book.” We rally around these and support their best judgment when the book is soundly selected by a competent, highly-qualified teacher.

To #SpeakLoudly means no more “over-the-fence” talk with our neighbors about the current state of education and how kids don’t read. Not when there are libraries and Independent Booksellers looking for people who know YA to booktalk with their patrons and customers.

To #SpeakLoudly means no more unilateral interactions with students in the classroom when what is needed is discourse. If the limit of coercion is compliance, then replace coercion with choice. To not have title/author awareness and yet work with young readers borders on malpractice. To offer an alternate book that you know is punitive rather than supportive, is the worst kind of practice of all. Honor choice. Foster discourse in the classroom. Celebrate the discovery that comes from independent reading.

I am looking forward to following #SpeakLoudly again tonight. My head is racing with the possibilities  for this particular forum. Now that we have spoken, what’s next? For this teacher, #SpeakLoudly needs to be more than a meme. . .it needs to be a movement.

The very best to each and everyone of you. For those of you who have sent your well wishes for this thread–thank you. I never thought that it would come to this.  I am amazed by this YA community of readers and writers. I thank Laurie Halse Anderson for sharing her gift with each and everyone of us. Sometimes, we are just called to do that thing we didn’t know we could do. . .or need to do. . .and when we do it. . .well, the limit of possibility?

It’s the sky.

Take care, #SpeakLoudly. I am looking up at the tab and I see 150 new posts in the time it took me to draft this one.

Mr. Paul W. Hankins

English 11 and AP English Language and Composition

Silver Creek High School

State Representative to ALAN from Indiana

Standing Committee on Censorship to NCTE

National Writing Project Teaching Consultant

Creator/Moderator: RAW INK Online

4 thoughts on “For One Chance to #SpeakLoudly

  1. Paul, you’ve done an amazing thing by organizing this call to action. I am so sorry you were abused. I am awed by all you give to your students.


  2. Thanks so much for posting this, Paul. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to write, but I’m glad you did. I hate the thought of you going through such abuse when you were a kid, and I wish you’d had family around who supported you instead of your abuser at the time. It’s amazing that you made it through so all of that to become the wonderful person you are now.

    Thank you for everything you do for kids and authors!


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