ALA applauds new school library legislation to widen access for students nationwide

For Immediate Release
Thu, 10/06/2022


Shawnda Hines

Deputy Director, Communications

Public Policy & Advocacy Office

American Library Association

Sen. Jack Reed, Rep. Raúl Grijalva introduce the Right to Read Act 

WASHINGTON – Today the American Library Association (ALA) and its division, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), welcomed the bicameral introduction of the Right to Read Act (S. 5064 and H.R. 9056) by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-03). The Right to Read Act is designed to ensure all students, including low-income and minority students, children with disabilities, and English language learners, have access to an effective school library staffed by a certified school librarian. The Right to Read Act would increase student access to fully staffed and appropriately resourced school libraries and authorizes funding to meet these urgent needs. 

“Today's school libraries are dynamic centers of learning that provide access to a wide range of materials and technology,” said ALA President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada. “The Right to Read Act, like ALA, insists that all students have the right to read freely and deserve equitable access to a robust collection in their school library.  

“The COVID pandemic shined a spotlight on the many roles of school librarians, who stepped up to meet a range of needs as learning moved online: ensuring students were able to access the internet; lending books, laptops, hotspots and other materials; providing technical assistance for teachers and parents; conducting virtual classes and sharing online material. School libraries bridge the gap between access and opportunity for all learners. Now is the time to scale that success. Every school library should be staffed by a state-certified school librarian.   

“Strong school libraries staffed by school librarians lead to stronger teachers and greater student success, and ALA applauds Senator Jack Reed and Representative Raúl Grijalva for introducing the Right to Read Act.” 

School librarians are committed to providing equitable access for all students to an effective school library because they understand it is imperative to student success. Students that utilize school libraries have 73% higher literacy rates than students attending schools without adequately resourced and staffed school libraries. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 2.5 million students are enrolled today in districts without a school library while approximately 30% of schools do not have a single full-time librarian.  

“AASL thanks Senator Reed, Representative Grijalva, and their staffs for introducing the Right to Read Act of 2022,” said AASL President Kathy Lester.  “This act ensures access to diverse, inclusive reading material professionally curated by certified school librarians.  Every student deserves access to a certified school librarian at their school who provides them motivation and guidance in choosing their own reading materials, teaches them information/media literacy skills, and supports them with technology integration.  In addition, every teacher deserves to work collaboratively with a certified school librarian to positively impact student learning.  The Right to Read Act will help ensure the availability of fully staffed and resourced school libraries that are integral to the entire learning community and essential for student success.” 

The Right to Read Act would increase student access to effective, fully staffed, and resourced school libraries across the nation by authorizing Comprehensive Literacy State Development Grants ($500 million), as well as increasing the authorization for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program ($100 million) to provide critical literacy resources in communities with significant need.  

Senator Reed and Rep. Grijalva’s legislation also reaffirms that First Amendment rights apply to school libraries, in response to the growing trend of book bans, which limit appropriate educational options for students. In addition, the Right to Read Act would extend liability protections to teachers and school librarians.  

The legislation also supports recruitment, retention and professional development for state-certified school librarians.