By Marah Russell

The University Times Staff 

PRESQUE ISLE – The Maine Department of Education hosted a live screening of the documentary film, “The Right to Read” in UMPI’s campus center on January 24th. The University of Maine at Presque Isle was one of only five sites in the state to screen the documentary. 

The film follows Oakland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) activist Kareem Weaver, and first-grade teacher Sabrina Causey as they expose the harsh realities of being unable to read information in the “Information Age.”

“Literacy is our greatest civil right. Without the ability to read, you cannot access anything in our society” – Kareem Weaver 

When Kareem Weaver first started instructing students in Oakland, California, only two children in his class of 35 could read. Realizing that the school system was failing a substantial number of students, especially students of color, Weaver filed a petition through NAACP to address the Oakland Unified School Board’s early literacy crisis. Since then, more than 15 states have signed. Weaver calls illiteracy “the pipeline to prison, homelessness, unemployment, and depression.” The film argues that racial inequity in literacy may affect children of all races throughout the country; the disparity lies in who has the resources to combat it. 

 Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, shows that 66% of fourth graders are reading below grade level. Weaver dreams of a world where 95% of children can read at grade level and pledges to continue fighting nationwide for children’s most fundamental human right – the right to read. 

Laura Lyons, an English major at UMPI, who attended the viewing, said, “I thought that the movie was very thought-provoking, and it brought to light an issue I had no idea was going on. The fact that so many students are struggling to read is just heartbreaking”

Over a dozen people braved the cold to attend the award-winning documentary film screening, including UMPI students Julia Gay and Tia Saucier. Gay and Saucier, both elementary education majors specializing in early childhood, attended to acquire instructional strategies and practical skills to implement in their future classrooms.

For more information, visit The Right to Read website