ALA Virtual Conference 2020

Healing Reading Trauma at #ALAVirtual20

Wow! A lot was packed in to the #ALAVirtual2020 session “Healing Reading Trauma: Rebuilding a Love of Reading Through Libraries for Liberation” presented by two teacher-librarians, Julia Torres and Julie Stivers. There is so much to learn about equity work.

I was drawn to this presentation because as a public librarian I have seen what they describe for over twenty years, how most schools’ reading programs actually turn kids off to reading. I’ve experienced as a librarian and as a mother how the leveled reading programs don’t fit many kids, how the reading choices made available to kids disenfranchise them. However, this session opened my eyes to how children from oppressed communities, disabled children, and LGBTQ+ children are not just taught to dislike books or see reading as a chore, but are actually hurt and oppressed by teachers, librarians, and an education system that does not offer reading material that is actually relevant to each child’s sense of self and their own identities.

There is a lot to “unpack”, as they say, so I will share a just few important ideas that I took away. I recommend following Torres and Stivers through their social media and checking out their resources to further explore, which I will list at the end.

The way to heal this trauma is to empower kids “to join in the process of discovering a love of reading.” The Five Key Foundations for Building Inclusive Libraries is a place to start. (Also search #LibFive.)

We white teachers and librarians need to educate ourselves on the concepts of intersectionality, systemic racism, and how oppression works.

We need to reexamine the classics and ask for what purpose are we teaching or recommending the text. We need to consider the impact of the text on our kids. Torres and Stivers shared a quote from Dr. Kim Parker, whom I am not familiar with but now I’m going to look into. This is the crux of the matter. “Do we care about the book or do we care about the reader?”

Leveling books is for teachers and administrators, not students.

Offer picture books for older readers! (I am shouting this one out!)

Take the money out of bookfairs and offer True Book FAIRs. Bookfairs are unfair. (Don’t get me started on the “free” pile of discarded books that were the paltry alternative for kids at my daughter’s elementary school. The books were trash.) Find a way to get new books that kids want to read into their hands. Torres pointed out that people in your community want to give kids books.

Give kids micro-affirmations in the books you offer.

Finaly, as Torres and Stivers stressed at the end of the presentation, we librarians and educators, especially us white librarians, can’t just read the books, we have to do the work.


Follow Julia Torres at @juliaerin80,, and

Follow Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib on Twitter and @mvlibraryreads on IG

Children’s Rights to Read

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