Episode 16 - Literacy as a Vehicle for Social Justice w/ Molly Ness, PhD


Episode Summary
Molly Ness, PhD, shares her passion and work toward increasing access to literacy opportunities for all children. Dr. Ness shares data and insights about "book deserts," a term describing areas and circumstances in which children lack adequate access to books. She highlights organizations that are tackling social justice and equity issues related to literacy through innovative and grassroots methods. Dr. Ness calls for increased investments and policies toward ending book deserts and supporting school librarians and teachers to provide high quality literacy opportunities and instruction to their students. Committed to cultivating literacy-rich homes and communities, Dr. Ness shares actionable strategies that families can implement immediately with their own children.

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.” 

“My current work [encompasses] literacy as a vehicle for social justice and equity.”

1. According to Dr. Ness, the term, book deserts, “refers to a geographic area where reading materials are scare or hard to come by.” A recent statistic shows that 32 million children across the United States lack access to books in their homes, schools, and communities.

“[The term] book deserts refers to a geographic area where reading materials are scarce or hard to come by.”

Dr. Ness is committed to addressing the systemic inequities that impact a child’s access to high quality book that were exacerbated by the pandemic. Her work and podcast seek to raise awareness about the organizations who target high poverty areas and children living in circumstances often overlooked by society, including children of deployed service members or the incarcerated as well as children in the foster care system.

2. Building lifelong, curious readers begins in the home. Strategies to promote reading at home include:

1. Model reading from text instead of devices
2. Schedule a standing weekly date to the local library
3. Integrate reading within social events
4. Honor your child’s choice of book based on their interest or relevance to their learning
5. Read aloud and shared reading is effective throughout life, and it can be informal

“It is not enough to just give access [to books.] If we really want to transform schools and communities and children as lifelong readers, we must build literacy… so that it becomes a fabric of the community.”

3. Dr. Ness calls for systemic and policy changes to promote equitable access to resources including expanding digital text and books. Policies should allocate funding to invest in school libraries, librarians and media specialists.

“For too many of our kids, school is the place where they access resources… not only are they coming to school for healthcare or food, but school is the one place for [students] to get books.”

Systemically, we need to provide meaningful pre-service preparation and professional development for teachers in the science of reading.

"I want us to move away from fixing a flawed idea and instead, investing in the science that we already have and the programs and professional development that… are showing powerful results."


Register for upcoming courses and workshops with Dr. Molly Ness
Learn more from Dr. Ness by visiting her website
Connect with Dr. Ness on Twitter     Learn more about Book DesertsRead The Windward Institute's Dr. Ness Faculty Highlight

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests.