Film Review: Review: The Right to Read

Kadjata Bah, age 18

new documentary film called The Right to Readadds to growing national debates about literacy and the science of reading. This timely and compelling film is streaming for free until March 9, 2023.

Directed by Jenny Mackenzie and produced by LeVar Burton, the film follows a long-time activist, a teacher, and two families as they navigate the future of education.

Kareem Weaver is an Oakland-based activist with the NAACP. He is an experienced educator, and his mission is to create a world where 95% of children can read. Working with Sabrina Causey, a rookie first grade teacher in Oakland, the two make a case for a new curriculum for their students based in the science of reading.

The film comes right as the “reading wars” of the 1990s have come to another head. The debate between the research-based science of reading and the whole language or balanced literacy approach now holds more dire consequences for the crisis American children face.

Currently, 37% of fourth graders in the U.S. read below grade level. While literacy is a concern for all children, gaps are especially pronounced among children of color. In fact, about 50% of all Black students graduate high school reading below grade level. Illiteracy is not only an academic burden as research shows that people who cannot read proficiently are more likely to end up in prison, homeless, and unemployed.

“Imagine being in the Stone Age and you ain’t got no stone. Imagine being in the Bronze Age and you ain’t got no bronze. We’re in the Information Age right now—and you can’t read the information,” said Weaver while explaining the current reading crisis.

Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?