Forever Free: A True Story of Hope in the Fight for Child Literacy

Other Pr. Aug. 2021. 192p. ISBN 9781635420807. $25.99. ED
Blending memoir with social critique, Bailey discusses the power of literacy to change lives. Reading was an aid to Frederick Douglass in his abolitionist activism and on his road to freedom, and it continues to be a “tool of liberation for people of color,” Bailey writes. She particularly notes that reading provides opportunities to improve access to health care, employment, and wealth. Bailey’s book draws on history, pedagogy (she has a PhD in education), and her own experience as a Black woman. She says that witnessing institutional racism as a high school teacher, coupled with her devotion to service, led her to found the nonprofit Freedom Readers, which aims to improve the literacy skills of vulnerable students. Freedom Readers scholars learn about their heritage, build vocabulary, and practice public speaking; sessions end with scholars practicing reading with a tutor. In a decade of operation, Freedom Readers has improved the academic success of participants. Bailey’s book alone is compelling and insightful, but including sample lesson plans or reading lists would have strengthened the work for readers.
VERDICT Bailey’s book is recommended for anyone who has an interest in improving literacy rates or who enjoys narratives of individuals overcoming obstacles to bring a vision to fruition. Directors of small nonprofit organizations will be able to relate to the successes and frustrations Bailey experiences, including the adjustments required by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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