Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best-selling YA Author Jay Asher Brings Anti-Bullying Tour to Colorado

Bullying may always be with us - but that doesn't mean we can't try to do something to lessen it. And, that's the approach being taken by best-selling YA author Jay Asher, whose novel Thirteen Reasons Why has engaged millions of teens nationwide with discussions of bullying, harassment, depression, and suicide. In response to the huge outpouring of support for and interest in his novel, Asher has been on a "50 States Against Bullying Tour," sponsored by his publisher, which includes visits to fifty different high schools across the country.  Recently, Asher visited Cherry Creek High School in Colorado and delivered his message of hope and positive behavior to more than a thousand students. Here's my coverage of the event.

The presentation at Cherry Creek was an entertaining event, as Jay Asher is an engaging speaker who can connect with large groups of teens in person as well as with the written word. His speech, which is obviously about a serious and potentially somber matter, is surprisingly light and uplifting as he constantly reinforces to the audience a message of hope. As a speaker, he has an easy-going manner, punctuated with some self-deprecating humor that enables him to deal with a difficult topic in a positive and engaging way. Asher deftly balanced his serious commentary with amusing anecdotes that were both thoughtful and amusing. 

The book and tour have not been without controversy, which isn’t surprising considering the subject. Sadly, Asher noted, “Some communities live in silence” about issues like bullying and depression and suicide because they make people uncomfortable. And that, Asher believes, is a huge mistake. Not talking about serious issues is not the answer for how to deal with them, and his tour is a response to that instinct. In that regard, Asher spoke positively about the opportunity to come speak at Cherry Creek, after noting his book had been banned and challenged in numerous places. In fact, he has even been un-invited from some schools after their communities learned more about the book’s plot. “It’s a testament to your school that I’m speaking to you now,” he told the students. “Your school is telling you that they care about you.” 

Jay believes that ultimately Hannah’s lesson, or message, would be that “I want you to think about how to treat people from now on.” That’s the message he’s sharing with students, and he believes he’s making a difference with young people like the reader who told him after reading the book, “It just makes me want to be wonderful to everyone.” That would be a pretty meaningful legacy.

Ultimately, this event is another important step in educating our youth.

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