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The Right to Read


When a child can’t read, their chances of incarceration, homelessness, and unemployment increase. That’s why Oakland-based NAACP activist Kareem Weaver believes literacy is one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time and is fighting for better reading instruction. “What good is winning the right to vote if we can’t even read the ballot?” Fed up with the bleak reading scores in his own community, Kareem files a petition with the Oakland Unified School District demanding change.

This Film is accompanied by a DISCUSSION GUIDE (see below) designed to be as flexible and adaptable to your discussion groups’ level of knowledge on the issue of literacy, the science of reading, and civil rights.


  • EdSurge Podcast
    "...Failing efforts to teach reading disproportionately impact children of color.
    It’s a call to arms, a call to action. I'm hoping that people connect to the subject matter enough to turn off the TV for a second, to turn off the football, the basketball, the March Madness, and let's see about our kids. I'm hoping that there can be a collective refocus on our children"
    Jeffrey R. Young
  • EDSource
    "The compelling 80-minute documentary exposes the nation's literacy crisis and vividly puts a human face on the grim statistic that only a third of American fourth-graders can read well enough to qualify as proficient on the 2022 NAEP exam, known as the nation's report card."
    Karen D'Souza
  • The Hollywood Reporter
    "It’s a jaw-dropping indictment on the historical and present failings of the country’s educational and political leadership. But it’s also a passionate call to action to remove the hold that the educational theory of whole language literacy has had on American education for a century"
    Abbey White
  • Los Angeles Times
    "But for our kids, for kids of color, for marginalized kids, they have at least one strike against them because it’s challenging. We talk a lot today about diversity and inclusion, but inequality and exclusion is baked into the DNA of this country. And we have done precious little to address it"
    Jevon Phillips
  • Chalkbeat Chicago
    "If students are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of school or fail to graduate, according to a national study. Also, some incarcerated people are not able to read or have undiagnosed dyslexia.
    Some families are taking action against schools for not teaching their children to read. A group of Michigan students sued the state in 2020 for not providing them with a proper education. A similar case was settled in California."
    Samantha Smylie
  • newsmakers
    "At SBIFF, a Powerful New Doc on What We Can Do about the Scandal of Illiteracy"
    Cheri Rae and Monie de Wit

Festival Participation

  • Harlem International Film Festival - 2023
    Audience Award Winner
  • SXSW EDU - 2023
    Official Selection
  • Minneapolis–St. Paul International Film Festival - 2023
    Official Selection
  • Santa Barbara International Film Festival - 2023
    Official Selection
  • Milwaukee Film Festival - 2023
    Official Selection

Additional Materials

Distribution Company

ROCO Films Logo
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