What is free speech and why is it so special?
Your Voice is Your SuperPower tells you why your voice matters and how you can use it and also why we must protect everyone’s right to free speech.
KidLit TV featured interview with Jessica & Sandy Bohrer,
Co-Authors of Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner’s Guide to Freedom of Speech
(and the First Amendment)
Jessica Bohrer has been protecting and empowering journalists for over a decade. She is Vice President and Editorial Counsel in the newsroom at Forbes. She serves on the Leadership Council of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-profit which promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists. She also provides pro bono support to journalists working with the International Senior Lawyers Project. Prior to joining Forbes, Jessica worked to protect journalists at the PBS flagship station in New York, WNET on programs such as NewsHour Weekend and Women, War & Peace.
Sandy Bohrer is a leading First Amendment lawyer. Over the past four decades, he has represented publishers and broadcasters in scores of lawsuits involving freedom of speech and the press. He founded Florida ́s First Amendment hotline to provide journalists with free legal advice. He has devoted much of his time over the past two decades to the rights and care of children, particularly children who have been or at risk of being taken from their parents by the State because of abuse or neglect. He teaches a college class about children and the media. Sandy is also Jessica’s dad.
Jessica and Sandy’s first children’s book, Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner’s Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment) was published in September. Here, the father-daughter team take turns for an interview about the book and the importance of teaching young children about freedom of speech!
Jessica: Why did you think now was the right time for us to write a book for children about the importance of freedom of speech and using your voice?
Sandy: As we watched the events unfolding around the world for the past couple years, with violence, protests and crackdowns on freedom of expression, we felt there could not be a more important time to teach young children about the importance of freedom of speech. We want children to read the book to feel empowered to speak up when they feel strongly about a subject so they can be part of making the world a better place.
Sandy: What do you think is the best feedback we’ve received about the book since it came out in September?
Jessica: In one of our Zoom readings into a classroom in New Jersey, a young reader raised her hand to share that she used to be shy around people, but after reading Your Voice Is Your Superpower, she really wants to use her voice to stand out. And in a review of the book on The Children’s Hour, a public radio show made for kids and by kids, the young book reviewer said: “I like the book because it makes me feel confident in my voice. I really enjoyed this book because it helps me understand my voice and it really makes me feel like it is a superpower.” Hearing from readers that the book inspired them to feel confident to use their voices is really wonderful, since of course that’s exactly why we wrote the book!
Jessica: Who inspired you to use your voice as a child?
Sandy: My parents always encouraged me to speak. Sometimes, though, they wanted me to stop!
Sandy: What was your favorite part about writing the book?
Jessica: My favorite part about this project was being able to share it with my father (hey, that’s you!). It’s really a special thing to have been able to work on this project together and now to see it come to life as we share the book with young readers, classrooms and libraries and we have a chance to talk about why we think freedom of speech is so important and why we want every child to feel empowered to use their voice.
Jessica: What was it like writing a book with your daughter?
Sandy: It was a lot of fun. How often do parents get to do a project with an adult child, especially one like this? A unique opportunity.
Jessica: What is your favorite page in the book and why?
Sandy: It’s hard to pick just one, but I like the pages where we say, “Every voice is different. That makes us unique. And luckily we all have the freedom to speak.” That really gets to heart of the concept freedom of speech – the idea that we each have a voice, and we’re free to use in any and all the ways that make us feel powerful.
Sandy: How do you think teachers, parents and librarians can help teach children about the importance of freedom of speech?
Jessica: Teachers, parents and librarians are already playing a very important role in educating children and helping them find their voices. These are the people we look to as learn what it takes to be a good person and a good citizen of the world. They can encourage children to use their voices and they can help them to become good listeners. By using tools in our book and the educational exercises we developed along with it, they can help children gain the confidence to use their voices. As we shared with the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), librarians in particular can play an important role in navigating through the noise of today’s world, providing a safe and inclusive space for free speech and helping young children find their voices without fear of encountering judgment, bullying or hate. Story time can provide great opportunities to build inclusive and empowering spaces.
For more on the book: Your Voice Is Your Superpower
Follow Jessica on Twitter
Follow the book on Instagram
To access free educational resources visit: https://www.yourvoiceisyoursuperpower.com
MORE INFO about THE FIRST AMENDMENT from
YOUR VOICE IS YOUR SUPERPOWER:
When the U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, it did not contain the essential freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights. That was because so many of the Framers viewed their inclusion as unnecessary. However, after vigorous debate, the Bill of Rights was adopted. The first freedoms guaranteed in this historic document were articulated in the 45 words written by James Madison that we have come to know as the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the Constitution — went into effect on December 15, 1791, when the state of Virginia ratified it, giving the bill the majority of ratifying states required to protect citizens from the power of the federal government.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Some resources for learning more about the First Amendment and free speech issues as they arise today.
Student Press Law Center: https://splc.org/
Committee to Protect Journalists: https://cpj.org/
National Endowment for the Humanities: https://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plans/first-amendment-whats-fair-free-country
National Constitution Center – We the Civics Kids – https://constitutioncenter.org/learn/educational-resources/we-the-civics-kids
iCivics – icivics.org