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#ILAchat: Inspiring Social Justice and Activism Through Literacy

 | May 08, 2018

ILAchat cohost imageIt’s been nearly a year since we hosted our first equity in education panel, “Disrupting a Destructive Cycle: How Literacy Drives Social Change” at the ILA 2017 Conference in Orlando, FL. Moderated by Cornelius Minor, one of the General Session speakers at the upcoming ILA 2018 Conference in Austin, TX, July 20–23, panelists discussed the need for equity in education and why it is essential that educators examine biases in their school policies, their classroom libraries, and themselves.

Since then, ILA has hosted several #ILAchat conversations about how educators can create an inclusive classroom for all students, examine power and privilege within school systems, consider concepts of gender identity, support multilingual learners, and advocate for equity in their schools and classrooms. Our next #ILAchat, which will occur on Thursday, May 10, at 8:00 p.m. ET, takes a slightly different approach to social justice issues: Rather than discussing how educators can be a force for social change, we’re examining how they can put that power into the hands of their students and inspire activism through literature and literacy.

The topic was suggested by none other than Oliva Van Ledtje (@thelivbits), of LivBits fame. At only 10 years old, Ledtje has already made her mark on the literacy world as a book activist, using social media and videos to share her passion for books and promoting other young voices to do the same. Ledtje’s mother, Cynthia Merrill (@cyndisueboo), joins as a cohost not only to lend a parental voice to the topic but also to share her experience as a teacher and staff developer.

Our third cohost, Cynthia Levinson (@cylev), is former teacher and current nonfiction writer for Watch Out for Flying Kids!, won the 2016 ILA Social Justice Award. Levinson will be a panelist at ILA 2018 and one of our Putting Books to Work authors at Children’s Literature Day. You can learn more about Levinson and find resources for using her books in the classroom on her two websites: and

Follow #ILAchat and @ILAtoday at 8:00 p.m. ET on May 10 to join the conversation about how to achieve social justice and activism through literacy.

See you there!

Wesley Ford is the Social Media Strategist for the International Literacy Association.

Nicole Robbins is the Communications Intern for the International Literacy Association.


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  1. Hunter Southall | Aug 15, 2018

    I disagree with Joy. While it is not solely the responsibility of educators to inform students of social injustice, an unfortunate yet undeniable aspect of most societies, teachers have the right and ultimately should address those issues that plague the lives of many school students. Even students who are not majorly affected by such issues would benefit from learning about the experiences of others. 

    However, truly even before they become students, all persons are significantly impacted by inequality and politics. The belief that politics is controversial or private does not negate its importance or applicability in the classroom. On the contrary, it would only make sense that all students are exposed to forums where issues that are deeply rooted in our society can be discussed in an appropriate and respectful way. 

    It should not be the objective of teachers to attempt to conform their students to one perspective, but expectantly, in some cases students will adopt a similar view as their teachers. If such views are of tolerance, acceptance or awareness of inequality, then that is a welcomed response. Still, the main purpose is to enlighten people at a young age to multiple points of view. 

    Similar to religion, some parents have an attitude that no one should ever expose their children to an alternative way of thinking. And simply that is a misconception on the part of some parents. Parents do not have the absolute right to restrict their children from learning about political (or religious) ideas that differ from their own. Even if they did, these parents still would not have the right to restrict other students from learning about these topics because of this. Children are not property; they have the right to not be controlled and manipulated by the one-sided, close-minded views of their parents. 

    It should be neither the goal of teachers nor parents to replicate their own beliefs with the beliefs of children. Instead, they ought to develop within students the ability to think for themselves. 

    If this was accomplished, parents would worry less about who tells their children what as they could trust their children would not be swayed by this alone. Thus, even if a teacher was actively advocating for student activism, students would then decide for themselves what they want to do. To be clear, discussion of activism does have place in schools, and not only in a historical context. Our nation continues to be constructed through social activism, and its impact is indeed felt by students. So, there is no basis to believe that schools have no responsibility to elicit participation in some students. 

  2. Joy Reinert | May 09, 2018

    It is not the duty of teachers and schools to teach or to encourage student activists!!!  It certainly should not be the purpose of the International Literacy Association to make or encourage student activists either. 

    I think that the Association has lost its real purpose and has become too political.  I do not like teachers forcing their beliefs on students.

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