For immediate release | April 3, 2024

“The First Amendment and the Freedom to Read” receives AASL Roald Dahl's Miss Honey Social Justice Award

CHICAGO – “The First Amendment and the Freedom to Read” project from Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, New York, is the recipient of the 2024 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Roald Dahl's Miss Honey Social Justice Award. Sponsored by Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House, the Roald Dahl Award recognizes collaboration between school librarians and teachers in the instruction of social justice using school library resources.

School librarian, Arlene Laverde, knew that “oftentimes students in New York City do not realize how different the country is around them. When delving into the nuances of book banning and the restrictions on certain materials, students were in shock that books that were available on their high school library shelves were not available in other schools. This allowed and encouraged our students to look at books critically. They questioned why these books were deemed inappropriate for one school and not others and allowed them to question the authority of those who banned these materials.”

Laverde, working with the 12th-grade government teachers, Joshua Krinsky, Charlene Levi, and Christopher Morrison, used the Freedom to Read bill that was currently on the New York Assembly floor waiting to be voted on to teach their students about their First Amendment Rights, and the importance of participating in government. The Freedom to Read project emphasized the importance of intellectual freedom and access to a diverse range of ideas, even controversial or unpopular ones.

“The committee believes this important project has inspired these students to be social justice advocates for life,” said Committee Chair Sarah Sansbury. “To take current, relevant issues that are affecting many libraries across the country is not only timely but a model that can replicated across states and grade levels.’”

Hasana Abdullah, a participating student wrote in her Assemblyman letter, “As an avid reader myself, I can tell you that some of the most influential books that I’ve read throughout my life have been recommended to me by librarians… Without the librarian having been able to recommend it, I never would have come across such an influential book in my youth, which is why I believe that librarians ought to be trusted with the ability to curate collections for the community within their school.”

“Arlene and her collaborators are not just fostering lifelong advocates, but this project developed information-seeking and inquiry-thinking that extended well beyond the walls of the school,” said AASL President Courtney Pentland. “This project is a great example of the expansive impact school libraries, school librarians, educator collaborations, books, and access to information has on all learners.”

The AASL award winners will be recognized during the 2025 AASL National Conference taking place October 16-19 in St. Louis, Missouri.

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

Penguin Young Readers is one of the leading children's book publishers in the United States. Whether fiction or nonfiction, classic authors and illustrators or exciting new licensed properties, we strive to make the perfect book for every reader. With an award-winning backlist, PYR continues to publish outstanding books for readers of all ages. The company owns a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Dial Books, Dutton, Flamingo, Kokila, Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Workshop, Philomel, Puffin, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Rocky Pond Books, Viking, and Frederick Warne. Penguin Young Readers Group is a division of Penguin Random House LLC.


Allison Cline

Deputy Executive Director

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)