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#HFGather: Empowering Readers and Reader Choice with Julia Torres

Highlights Foundation’s Alison Green Myers and Alex Villasante had a wonderful conversation with educator, advocate, and activist Julia Torres: Empowering Readers and Reader Choice. Among the things they discussed:

  • The importance of encouraging young people to recommend books to each other–it’s more powerful than having adults recommend books to them.
  • Giving young people the honor of being quiet and listening to them, and see what they tell you about what they’ve read or what they’d like to read. We want them to feel joy in their own choices.
  • We need to rework our whole idea of what learning looks like. As we are facing the worst teacher shortage that’s ever happened, maybe there is opportunity now to do things differently. Why don’t we adopt the tools that will give young people more agency with their reading?
  • Educators should not be afraid of other reading modalities, like manga, graphic novels and fan fiction.
  • Publishers and organizations need to think about real-world ways to connect young people with authors.
  • Picture books are not just for very young kids – they are quite nuanced and can be used with older children too, if we can de-stigmatize reading them.
  • Letting go of the idea that allowing young people to choose the books they want to read would mean they aren’t reading rigorously enough, that they might be missing key educational points.
  • Regarding the current book-banning discussions, Julia says she would like to hear directly from young people, instead of listening to adults talking about it. She things that these book banning conversations are taking place in primarily white suburbs, whereas “people from the margins have had their choices censored for a very, very long time.”

If you missed the live session, you can watch it here.
Please note: closed captions are being added to the video below. When they are finished, you can see them by hovering over the bottom of the video and choosing the “CC” icon.

Listen to a podcast version of the #HFGather:


Julia Torres is an expert in secondary writing and reading instruction, including accelerated reading and writing instruction for multilingual students and those learning in urban environments.

Julia facilitates workshops and professional conversations around the country pertaining to best practices in reading and writing instruction, culturally sustaining pedagogies in language arts, as well as digital literacy and librarianship.

Available now: Liven Up Your Library
Design Engaging and Inclusive Programs for Tweens and Teens
By Julia Torres and Valerie Tago
Learn how librarians can positively effect change in areas like digital equity and inclusiveness, while creating powerful programming for middle and high school students.
Liven Up Your Library

Posted on: August 9, 2022

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