AASL President's Program

AASL's President's Program

ALA Annual Conference, Chicago, IL
Saturday, June 24, 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
McCormick Place, Room W196a

Freedom to Read Ambassadors

Join AASL President, Kathy Lester, for a conversation about speaking out for the Freedom to Read and why it is important for all students to have access to a wide variety of books and information. Panelists Kelly Yang, author of Front Desk and Finally Seen; Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul, educator, author, and adapter of Stamped for Kids, Amanda Jones, winner of AASL’s Intellectual Freedom Award, and Becky Calzada, co-founder of the #Freadom group will discuss their work and encourage everyone to become ambassadors in the efforts to protect first amendment rights for all.

Becky Calzada


Becky Calzada is a Texas educator and currently the District Library Coordinator in Leander, Texas. She is a co-founding member of #FReadom Fighters, recipient of the ALA’s Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, the American Association of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award, and the Texas Library Association’s Libraries Change Communities Award. Becky was selected for the 4th cohort of the ALA Policy Corp, is a member of the ALA Intellectual Freedom committee, an advisory member for The ALA Center for the Future of Libraries Advisory Group, a past AASL Board member, on the Legislative Committee for the Texas Library Association, and Past Chair for the Texas Association of School Librarians. She was recently honored by People Magazine in their 2023 Women Changing the World portfolio.

Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul

Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul is the founder of Red Clay Educators. Her research and work stem from an unyielding commitment to anti-bias and antiracist pedagogy and practices. Sonja leads professional development with educators around the world spotlighting the relationship between teaching, literacy, and equity. She supports educators in developing the capacity and will to continually examine themselves and to critically inquire into their own practices.

Sonja has adapted the #1 New York Times Best Seller Stamped (For Kids), published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, which has earned starred reviews by Kirkus and School Library Journal, and was selected as one of the best nonfiction/informational books of 2021 by Parents Magazine, School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, and the Chicago Public Library. Stamped (For Kids) was selected by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) as a 2022 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. 

Amanda Jones


Amanda Jones is a middle grade librarian and president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. She is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year. Amanda is the winner of the 2023 AASL Intellectual Freedom Award and the 2023 ALA IFRT Paul Howard Award for Courage. She serves as an ALA Councilor At Large and is the AASL23 National Conference Co-Chair. She is a co-founding member of Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship, a grassroots organization fighting attacks on intellectual freedom in Louisiana. Find out more about her at librarianjones.com and follow her on Twitter @abmack33. 

Kathy Lester

Kathy Lester, 2022–2023 President of AASL, is a school librarian at East Middle School in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools in Michigan. She is also an ALA Councilor-at-Large and serves on ALA’s Committee on Library Advocacy (COLA). She is active in her state association, the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME). She is a past-president of MAME and serves as a co-chair for its Advocacy Committee. Kathy also serves on the advisory council of two Institute of Museum and Library Services Grant Projects: School Librarian Investigation—Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE) led by Project Director Debra E. Kachel and Principal Investigator Keith Curry Lance, and Restoring Urban School Libraries (RUSL) with Project Director Kafi Kumasi.

Kelly Yang


Kelly Yang is the New York Times bestselling author of Front Desk (winner of the 2019 Asian Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature), ParachutesThree KeysRoom to DreamNew From Here, and Finally SeenFront Desk also won the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal, was the 2019 Global Read Aloud, and has earned numerous other honors including being named a best book of the year by Amazon, The Washington PostKirkus ReviewsSchool Library JournalPublishers Weekly, and NPR. Learn more at KellyYang.com.