“Read, my Child, Read!” | Remembering John Lewis

“He taught me that it is OK to get into ‘good trouble,’ and we all have a moral obligation to speak up and fight against injustices,” says school librarian K.C. Boyd. We remember Rep. John Lewis, including his full address at the 2016 SLJ Summit.

“Read, my child, read!” a schoolteacher urged a young John Lewis. The last of the “Big Six” figures of the civil rights movement and Democratic congressman representing Georgia for the past 33 years until his death yesterday, Lewis would often share that anecdote from the dais.

The inspired directive fit within his larger message of social justice; Lewis brought both to the 2016 School Library Journal Summit in Washington D.C., where he delivered the keynote (below).

K.C. Boyd, a library media specialist at Jefferson Academy in the District of Columbia Public School system, recalls that event. “That day he taught me that it is OK to get into ‘good trouble,’ and we all have a moral obligation to speak up and fight against injustices,” she says.


He cited a special librarian, his late wife, Lillian Miles Lewis, who earned an MLS from the University of Southern California and was Director of Special Collections for Atlanta University. “She taught me a great deal, about reading and the love of books,” the congressman told the room full of librarians, educators, and publishers.

“So I want to thank each and every one of you for all that you do. I was inspired to get in the way, I got in trouble, good trouble. With books, with reading… you can dream dreams and you can stand up and speak up and speak out and be inspired by texts or by words.”


Lewis, along with co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell, won the 2016 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for his graphic memoir March: Book Three (Top Shelf). It was the final volume in the trilogy covering Lewis's personal account of the civil rights era, including the campaign for voting rights, and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, culminating in the showdown on Edmund Pettus Bridge known as "Bloody Sunday."   

In his acceptance speech (above), Lewis told the audience that in 1956, he was refused a library card at his local Alabama library, for "whites only" he was told.

In response to the story, the Fairfax County (VA) Library sent him a library card, with a note signed by staff, welcoming him to visit the library when he was in town.

"I’m saddened that we have lost this gentle giant in the struggle for civil and human rights," says Boyd. "I’m inspired to carry on his spirit of service and advocacy in the work I do in school libraries."


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Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka is editor in chief of School Library Journal.

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Margaret Spolverino

We have lost a Titan for change. Kathy thank you for bringing him to the forefront always. May the young readers you so aptly direct step into his shoes and continue his work to fruition. At this turning point in the world it is not critical. It has reached the pivotal crisis point!

Posted : Jul 18, 2020 08:15



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