The Uprise Books Project, an all-volunteer start-up organization, has one goal: to get banned and challenged books into the hands of underprivileged middle school and high school students. Uprise focuses specifically on banned and challenged books because its members are ardently opposed to censorship, but also because they believe the controversial subject matter of the books will actually compel kids to read them.
"I’ve been interested in banned and challenged books for years, probably from the first time I heard about challenges to Huck Finn years ago," said Justin Stanley, president of Uprise, who started the organization in order to end the cycle of poverty through literacy, citing the close ties between the two and the vicious cycle children in households that don't promote literacy find themselves. "The causes hit close to home. I have always been a big reader and spent my elementary school years being raised by a single mother… we were no strangers to various welfare programs."
Uprise's ambitious plans begin with a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign, money that will primarily go to building a comprehensive website, which will allow Uprise's staff to focus more closely on distributing the books and developing the distribution logistics. Said Stanley: "The minimum functionality we envision (and should be able to build if we hit goal) will give students the ability to browse through a list of banned and challenged books as though they were searching through any e-commerce site. The list of available titles will be populated by data released by the ALA, ACLU, and other concerned organizations. Now, being an all-volunteer organization (and a start-up one at that), we need to run things as lean as possible which, in our case, translates into maintaining zero inventory."
From there, when the student finds the book that he or she is interested in, it can be added to a personal Wish List, which can be viewed by potential donors. "Donors will be able to search through the lists of banned books that students have requested and sponsor specific ones based on various criteria," Stanley said. "For example, Donor A might really love Slaughterhouse-Five and want to make sure that his money funds just that title. He'll be able to filter current requests by title and see if any kids have asked for that. If so, he can contribute towards fulfilling requests for that specific book."
Right now, Stanley and his staff are footing most of the expenses as they wait to hear from the IRS about their status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, which limits their fundraising and grant options at present.
Stanely calls Uprise an "ongoing and growing" project, one that begins with zero inventory but eventually, he hopes, one that will work directly with schools and teachers, so that they can collect orders and distribute the books.
To donate to Uprise, visit their Kickstarter campaign, which is active until November 1.