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Book Joy Now

Book Joy Now - Blogpost that could be turned into an op-ed

Contributed by: Candise Hill and Joy Lyman, 313Reads Michigan Education Policy Fellows with Teach for America Detroit

Last week, we attended the SXSW EDU conference in Austin, Texas, as a part of our fellowship. The hustle and bustle of the city combined with the forward moving energy of the committed educators, innovators, and advocators in attendance at the conference created a charged atmosphere of learning and growth. In between each session, we found ourselves in animated conversations with each other, excited for what is next and the knowledge we are bringing back to our community. One of the focuses of several panels, sessions, and speakers was the Right to Read movement that emphasizes putting an end to book bans.

One of the pivotal moments was the opening keynote talk from equity and literacy advocates Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw and Jonathan Cox. Dr. Crenshaw spotlighted the importance of books, and ensuring that book bans are not accepted in this country. The Right to Read is an important part of a broader story of the attempts to censor the voices that are advocating for equity and inclusion. This is an urgent problem for the children in our community- because whether a book is banned in their district or library (as they have been in Dearborn) or in a district far away, the consequences are the erasure of perspectives that ensure representation, empathy, and understanding.

By advocating for reading rights, we push back on the continuous increase in book censorship. We also advocate for the representation of marginalized populations. Statistics show that books targeted for banning are often disproportionately those that amplify the voices and experiences of the historically marginalized. This is evidenced when looking at the top 15 most banned books last school year. Speaking out against these bans can help ensure that we keep reading a place to find joy, representation, and new learning. Organizations like Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME), Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE), and the Michigan Reading Association (MRA) have been working to advocate against book bans and in support of educators.

The Right to Read is an intersectional movement. The truth is that the majority of Americans, 71%, do not support book bans. That is a large swath of our country who unites on this issue, but the loud minority has been taking up a large part of the narrative. National, state, and local organizations are working to change this. One organization, Books Unbanned, distributes free banned books to educators, including books that have been banned in school districts in Michigan. Similarly, many other speakers and panelists at SXSW EDU highlighted the Right to Read, bringing together powerful youth voices and professional voices

This connects strongly with the work that our coalition is already doing in our community- in fact, you can register here for a screening of The Right to Read in partnership with Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., Chi Chapter, our 313Reads Youth Literacy Justice Advisory Council, and Detroit Parent Network on April 13th. If you are interested in learning more about the Right to Read movement, attending the screening is a great place to start. If you’re feeling even more empowered, you can learn about how to host your own screening here.

Whether you attend the screening, or choose to learn more about the impact of book bans, there is a place for each of us to start. Truly, this was one of the key takeaways from the SXSW EDU experience— that there are many avenues available to get engaged in the work. Writing a letter of support to a banned author, or exercising your reading rights by spotlighting a banned book in your local book club are just a couple of ways to engage in the Right to Read movement.

We’d love to hear from you- what are you doing to support Right to Read? What is going on in your community? Share it with us - and


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