Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Q&A with Jessica and Sandy Bohrer

Jessica Bohrer
Jessica and Sandy Bohrer are the authors of Your Voice Is Your Superpower!, a new book for kids about the First Amendment and freedom of speech. They are both First Amendment lawyers, and are father and daughter. 

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A: As First Amendment lawyers, we spend much of our days defending the right to free speech, and we started thinking about the way that freedom of speech, like all values, is learned - from your parents, your teachers, and other role models you look up to.

So we decided to write this book to help parents and teachers get children started down the path to believing in the free and open exchange of ideas, thoughts and beliefs.

Sandy Bohrer
As we watched events around the country - and the world - unfold over the past few years and especially the past several weeks, we can't think of a more important time to teach children the value of freedom of speech. 

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: We chose this title because we want readers to understand there is real power in using your voice. And this is especially amazing because each one of us has a voice that is unique and important and powerful. We can use that voice to stand up for what we believe in, to show people who we are and to make a difference in the world. 

Q: What do you see as the importance of the First Amendment today?

A: The First Amendment provides for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom to protest. All of these freedoms are necessary to maintain a democracy. Without them, people may be afraid to say what they think and believe, and will be unable to share their thoughts and beliefs with other people and the government.

Freedom of expression also requires willing listeners, even to speech we may not want to hear. If we do not teach our children these basic values, and they neither speak nor listen to other points of view, and shoot down those with whom they disagree, what will happen to our Republic?

As we watch the news today, we're seeing citizens young and old exercise their rights under the First Amendment - challenging systemic racism and hate, advocating for LGBTQ rights, building awareness about climate change, the list goes on! - and that's really fantastic. 

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?

A: We hope kids will finish the book feeling empowered and excited to find ways to express themselves freely - while also respecting the rights of others to do the same.

In the materials on our website, we share a bunch of fun ways to bring the words of the book into action - from writing a letter to a government official or making a sign to bring to a protest, to writing a poem about something that's meaningful to you or even making a cape with a symbol that's meaningful to you and makes you feel super! 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Outside of our daily work practicing First Amendment law, our primary focus is to bring this book to life, but we also dedicate a great deal of time and energy to teaching and advocacy.

Sandy teaches classes at the University of Miami on Intolerance and Children and the Media, while Jessica is on the Leadership Council of the Committee to Protect Journalists and does pro bono work to help journalists at risk in Nicaragua. 

Q: Anything else we should know about the book?

A: The idea of collaborating on the book came together pretty organically, given our shared passions for free speech and helping children. Since we were based in different locations (Miami and New York) at the time we started writing, there were many emails, sketches, drafts and phone calls bouncing back and forth!

It's been incredibly exciting to see the book come together over the course of almost two years.

Follow us on Twitter & Instagram for updates on the book and more!

Jessica on Twitter
The book on Instagram

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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