Eight organizations committed to free speech and education have partnered to sponsor an essay contest for high school students in the state of Delaware. Students are invited to submit 250 to 500-word essays explaining what their school board members should know about Emily M. Danforth's young adult fiction novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, before deciding whether it should be removed from a school reading list.
Participating students can get a free copy of the book at Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Beach. To receive the book free of charge, students need to show an ID from a Delaware high school.
The contest follows the Cape Henlopen school board decision to eliminate the entire summer reading list for incoming students at Cape Henlopen High School in response to the controversy generated by its earlier decision to remove the book from a list of optional summer reading choices. The Miseducation of Cameron Post was one of 10 books on the Blue Hen List, titles recommended by librarians from across the state. In mid-June, the school board voted 6-1 to remove that specific book, claiming it contained profanity.
The decision has drawn local and national attention including letters from the contest sponsors. Last week, the board voted 6-1 "to return to the district's previous summer reading requirements, which demand college preparatory students read one book for the summer and honors students read two books," according to Delmarva Now.
"Eliminating the reading list entirely also eliminates the potential benefits of having students reading and discussing books together," said National Coalition Against Censorship Executive Director Joan Bertin. "In addition to calling attention to book banning in schools, this contest encourages students to read a book as a community, and to think critically about that experience."
Essays are due September 1 and winners will be announced during national Banned Books Week, September 21-27. The prizes are: $100 for First Place, $75 for Second Place and $50 for Third Place. Winning essays will also be published on NCAC.org.
The contest is sponsored by the NCAC and co-sponsored by American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, Association of American Publishers, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Delaware Library Association, PEN American Center and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. The groups are working in collaboration with Browseabout Books.