WASHINGTON, DC – Literacy opens the door for lifelong opportunity and economic success. To make sure this door is open to every child, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-03) introduced the Right to Read Act (S. 5064 / H.R. 9056), which will address disparities in access to school library resources and surge federal investment in support of increasing student literacy across America. The Right to Read Act would reauthorize the Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant program at $500 million and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program at $100 million.

Data show that school libraries make a significant difference in giving kids the skills and inspiration needed to become proficient and enthusiastic readers. Access to a school library results in 73% higher literacy rates for all students and an even more powerful impact for low income, minority and disabled students.  

The U.S. Department of Education reports that 2.5 million students are enrolled in districts where there are no school libraries, meaning that 1 out of 10 schools in America are without a library and 30% do not have full time school librarians. School libraries are most effective when they offer resources that resonate, engage, and empower students; however, 32 states have enacted bans on books that disproportionately limit access to titles with LGBTQ+ characters and characters of color.

The Right to Read Act will help address these disparities, ensuring that students have evidence-based reading instruction, well stocked and staffed school libraries, family literacy programs, a wide range of reading materials, and the freedom to choose what to read.  It also addresses the information digital literacy needs of today’s students.  The bill goes further to strengthen effective school libraries by investing in recruiting and retaining state-certified school librarians, and supporting staff working to broaden access to library collections.

The Right to Read Act reaffirms that first amendment rights apply to school libraries in response to the alarming trend of book banning, and it protects school librarians and other educators in carrying out their duty to protect students’ right to read.

“Quality teaching and effective school libraries go hand-in-hand with securing the right to read for our students.  We know that literacy is key to unlocking opportunity and success,” said Senator Reed. “The Right to Read Act is about making sure that low-income, minority, children with disabilities, and English language learners have equal access to that opportunity through high quality, appropriately staffed school libraries and diverse and inclusive reading materials both at school and at home.”

“Literacy is the cornerstone of a high-quality education in every society, yet today we are seeing our nation’s children subjected to politically led efforts to block access to books. Censoring our education system based on bias is national travesty.” said Rep. Grijalva. “We must ensure that our school libraries are equipped to empower and engage students from every background which is why I am proud to introduce the Right to Read Act with Senator Reed. This legislation will support the development of effective school libraries, including recruitment and retention of librarians, and provide federal funding for literacy resources in high need communities. This bill will also help protect the right to access diverse, inclusive school library collections. Together, we will build and develop effective school libraries with diverse and robust resources to deliver positive and formative opportunities for students.”

The legislation is supported by the American Library Association and its division, the American Association of School Librarians.

“Today's school libraries are dynamic centers of learning that provide access to a wide range of materials and technology,” said ALA President Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada. “The Right to Read Act, like ALA, insists that all students have the right to read freely and deserve equitable access to a robust collection in their school library. The COVID pandemic shined a spotlight on the many roles of school librarians, who stepped up to meet a range of needs as learning moved online: ensuring students were able to access the internet; lending books, laptops, hotspots and other materials; providing technical assistance for teachers and parents; conducting virtual classes and sharing online material. School libraries bridge the gap between access and opportunity for all learners. Now is the time to scale that success – not take it for granted. Every school library should be staffed by a state-certified school librarian. Strong school libraries staffed by school librarians lead to stronger teachers and greater student success, and ALA applauds Senator Jack Reed and Representative Raúl Grijalva for introducing the Right to Read Act.”

“The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) believes that all students have the right to read freely and deserve equitable access to a school library staffed by a state-certified school librarian,” said AASL President Kathy Lester. “School librarians professionally curate diverse, inclusive collections of materials; motivate and guide student reading; teach information/media literacy skills; and integrate technology for teaching and learning.  An effective school library supports the entire learning community and is essential for student success.  AASL endorses the Right to Read Act of 2022 and thanks Senator Reed, Representative Grijalva, and their staff for introducing this important legislation.”