Utah Alliance Coalition hosted a f-READ-om to read speaker rally at the Utah State Board of Education on Thursday morning, June 30th. Attached to these remarks are videos of our speakers. I thank all of them, credit given in the video. I will give a special shout out to Sahara Hayes, Democratic candidate for House District 32, and to Salt Lake City Council member Victoria Petro-Eschler (District 1) in presence for Sarah Reale, candidate for State School Board District 5.
The freedom to read what we want is the single most important gift of our great society. As we all know, certain groups of people, including fellow citizens and some in elected office, including on our State School Board, seek to remove certain library material from our public school libraries. Most of these books are written by people of color and LGBTQIA+ writers. Some of these books are the greats in American literature, such as the novels The Bluest Eye and Beloved byNobel laureate Toni Morrison.
Removing a book because it features a gay or transgender character or theme, or touches on difficult topics that impact our children and teens, is harmful. Plain and simple. Our students should be able to read about topics like drug abuse, sexual assault, and racism to gain a better understanding of themselves and their world. Students who see elements of themselves and their lives in these books often times have only books to keep them from feelings of alienation and societal rejection. For other students, these books help them gain a better connection with their struggling peers.
We call on the Utah State Board of Education to accept the model policy proposed by board member Carol Lear without delay. We have a lot of real problems in our schools, such as crowded classes, a teacher shortage, and—in some areas—failing infrastructure; these pressing issues are much more in line with the Board’s mission than removing wide swaths of books from our libraries under a broad, unconstitutional process.
Utah Alliance Coalition President
Frank Brannan introduces Utah Alliance Coalition and UAC partner Murray Equity Alliance, and discusses why representation in the books that are available to Utah's children through school libraries is essential.
Frank Brannan introduces speakers Sahara Hayes—Democratic candidate for HD32—who shares how books show people their potential, cultivate empathy, and are supposed to make readers uncomfortable, and how libraries must reflect everyone; and Lei Hu, whose perspective as a child immigrant growing up in New York City lends tremendous insight to the controversy surrounding students' First Amendment rights.
Frank Brannan introduces speaker Kelly Whited Jones, who works with the Utah Equal Rights Amendment Coalition. Kelly shares her experiences both as an educator whose favorite thing is reading and as a child who was able to travel from her small farm in Utah to different places, cultures, and religions throughout the world because of books.
Susan Bowlden shares her experiences both as a child who loved to (needed to!) read growing up in a conservative community in Salt Lake City, and as a teacher who wants students to read books about themselves and people who are different, and to have the freedom to choose those reading experiences.
Juliet Reynolds, founder of Murray Equity Alliance, expresses her belief that school book policies greatly impact our community, our families, and our children, and limiting exposure to literacy sows division; she asks the Board to continue its legacy of supporting all students through inclusive library policies. She brings her perspective as a parent of LGBTQ+ kids to speak about how LGBTQ+ education through books is essential for families like hers, and providing students with access to the experiences of others will help us heal and give all families better opportunities to improve our communities.