At the core of the First Amendment right to free speech, assembly, and religion is the right to free thought. We think (most of the time) before we speak. We think before we discuss our ideas and plans with others and decide to assemble. We think (and believe) which determines how or whether we perform religious activities. Freedom of thought is also connected to the freedom to read what we want and thereby develop our thoughts.
If you have elementary-age children, you’re probably already aware that March 2nd is National Read Across America Day (or the start of Read Across America Week). Many schools make this week full of fun for kids with reading at the center of everything. Children often get to dress in costume as a character from their favorite book. Guest readers or authors often come to schools in early March to share their love of books and reading.
It is important for parents to encourage reading during this week but also every week of the year.
It can be easy to dismiss reading if you’ve never been comfortable as a reader, but it is an important right you have that we can and should protect. Each year, there are efforts to ban certain books in schools and libraries across the US. According to a PEN America report, there were over 2,500 instances of individual books being banned from July 2021 to June 2022.
Efforts to stop reading in other countries means taking away girls’ ability to get an education. In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban banned girls from attending elementary school in December 2022. Stopping education of course means stopping reading.
So how can you support reading efforts in schools and libraries even if you are or are not an avid reader?
1–Volunteer to read with school-age kids if your schedule allows. Whether this is in a group setting or working with individual students who need special reading assistance, your time can make a huge difference.
2–Donate used books to libraries, schools, and community organizations.
3–Support libraries by buying from their book sales which support their literacy efforts. Support authors by purchasing their books.
4–Support your library in other ways too. Some are so simple like just downloading books via Libby and other online sources. Libraries keep records of how many people use their services which can impact their funding.
5–Read in front of your children, even if it’s not books. Reading cereal boxes and magazines count!
There are so many ways to to support our right to read. These are just a few. Comment below with more ideas and let’s keep the list going. Reading is a fundamental right, but as with all rights, we must consciously work to protect them.