The K-12 Library Connection: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

How to Celebrate Student Voice and Choice All Year Long

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Why celebrate the freedom to read?

I recently had the incredible opportunity to visit the Museo de Memoria y Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights) in Santiago, Chile.

I witnessed video footage of soldiers burning books after Pinochet’s military coup in 1973, viewed an exhibit that replicated the piles of burned books and other artistic material, and read the names of citizens who were detained, imprisoned and killed for their political beliefs. It was jarring to think about how, during the same time period of 1973-1990 when I was a K-12 student, I was encouraged by my family and teachers to read freely while Chileans were persecuted for expressing their ideas. As decreed by the United Nations in Article 19 of  its Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

So why celebrate the freedom to read? Because reading freely is our human right.

What does the freedom to read look like in action?

To read freely, students need:

ACCESS. Students enjoy easy and regular access to library materials, including books that reflect their unique identities and lived experiences. This includes books and digital resources in their home libraries, classroom libraries, school libraries, and public libraries.

INSTRUCTION. Students of all ages engage in information literacy learning led by trained school librarians. School librarians are the only certified K-12 information specialists, and their role will continue to be critical for preparing students to to be citizens who can find, evaluate and understand reliable and accurate information.

GUIDANCE. Students receive guidance to find reading material that feeds their curiosity, grows their love of learning, and helps them understand others and their world. Librarians are trained to provide readers’ advisory to connect their patrons to the types of books they are seeking.

TIME. Students have time to read independently. Outside of school, reading competes with sports, after-school activities, video games, social media, and more. Creating time and space during the school day for independent reading of student-selected books demonstrates value for reading.

ENCOURAGEMENT. Students are celebrated for developing their reader identities, not for their reading volume or reading ability. Developing a reader identity means learning what kinds of books they enjoy, trying out new genres, engaging in book discussions, learning about their favorite authors and illustrators, sharing their favorite book recommendations with peers, and more. School librarians are experts in planning programming to develop students’ reader identities.

Ideas and Resources for Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Celebrate students’ freedom to self-select books and read freely ALL YEAR LONG!

  • Banned Books Week programming: ALA hosts many exciting Banned Books Week events and ideas that can be integrated into library programming throughout the year.
  • Drop Everything and Read (DEAR): Carve out times in the school day or week for students to read a book of their choice.
  • A Day at the Beach: Decorate the library like the beach and invite students to spread beach towels on the library floor and read self-selected books.
  • Read-a-thon: Elementary students love wearing PJs to school for in-school read-a-thons, and free doughnuts, pizza, and/or extra credit help attract middle school and high school students to after-school and Saturday read-a-thons.
  • Reading Challenge: Challenge students to read beyond their personal preferences (check out the Eaglecrest High School Raptor Reading Challenge, led by teacher librarian Hollie Hawkins).
  • Host an author or illustrator visit: Colorado has incredible talent– contact your local public library or bookseller for recommendations of local children’s and YA authors and illustrators. Booksellers are often willing to pay author visit fees for the opportunity to sell book copies to the school community prior to the event.
  • Host a coffee meet-up in the library for parents and caregivers: Share how students can access print and digital school library materials, how students and their family members can request reading advisory assistance, and how librarians and classroom teachers collaborate to integrate information literacy instruction into classroom instruction.

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Professional Learning, Oct-Nov 2023

Click here to view program abstracts and registration/login information. Thank you to the Wyoming State Library for curating many of these opportunities! Webinars and online courses are free unless otherwise noted ($). Can’t attend the live event? Most webinars provide recording links to registered participants.

10/4/23: Your Magic Wand for Calm Staff and Children (edWeb)

10/4/23: LeVar Burton LIVE in Conversation with Da’Taeveyon Daniels (ALA)

10/5/23: Rally for the Right to Read: A Banned Books Week Event (ALA)

10/9/23: Artificial Intelligence and Generative AI: Empowering a Deeper Conversation (edWeb)

10/10/23: Fall in Love with Series Nonfiction (Booklist)

10/10/23: 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Rethinking Your Book Collection (Follett)

10/12/23 – 10/14/23: CALCON 2023 (Colorado Association of Libraries)

10/12/23: School Library Journal Day of Dialog 2023 Fall (School Library Journal)

10/14/23: Future Ready Librarians® Fall Summit 1 (All4Ed/Future Ready Librarians)

10/16/23: Graphic Literature Resources for Your Library (Colorado State Library, CU Denver)

10/18/23: Promos That Pop: How to Spread the Word About Your School Library (Booklist)

10/18/23: APA Style 7th Edition Refresher for Instructors (APA Style)

10/18/23: A Fresh Take on Media Literacy in the Era of AI (edWeb)

10/19/23: Cautiously Embracing the Future of Libraries (ai4Libraries); registration closes 10/6/23

10/26/23:  Library Journal Day of Dialog (Library Journal)

10/26/23: Magical Realism Reimagined (Mackin)

10/28/23: Future Ready  Librarians® Fall Summit 2 (All4Ed/Future Ready Librarians)

11/8/23: Bridge the Gap: Supporting Postsecondary Academic Success Through Libraries (Colorado State Library)

11/9/23: LibraryCon Live! (School Library Journal)