The Read Woke Challenge

Posted On Tuesday April 06, 2021

“Read Woke is a movement. It is a feeling. It is a style. It is a form of education. It is a call to action; it is our right as lifelong learners. It means arming yourself with knowledge in order to better protect your rights. Knowledge is power and no one can take it away. It means learning about others so that you can treat people with the respect and dignity that they deserve no matter their religion, race, creed, or colour.”
                                                                                      - Cicely Lewis, Read Woke creator 

Read Woke was created by school librarian Cicely Lewis, to better educate her students in social justice issues and their rights in relation to those issues. “Woke” is a term from the African American vernacular expression “stay woke”, which means to stay aware or awake to social justice issues needing to be addressed, such as racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

The Read Woke Challenge
HHPL invites Halton Hills to take part in the Read Woke Challenge! For every diverse book read and documented in Beanstack (HHPL’s reading and tracking app), you will receive a badge toward your goal. Simply choose a book from one of 12 categories using the recommended reading lists on Beanstack or our website. To earn the badge, just let us know what you learned from the book. Choose another book and repeat. This is an ongoing community challenge, so you can start whenever you want and complete it at your own pace. Get started on the HHPL Read Woke page today!

The goal of Read Woke is to build a community of understanding, unity and inclusion. Diverse books bring visibility to experiences different from our own and allow us to learn from each other; to become engaged, educated, and empathetic members of society. This is the most important reason for the inclusion of diverse books in libraries and schools. Our sense of identity, value, and agency are influenced by a wide array of things including home life, school, and society. Reading a book that represents the wider world around us can help to validate a reader’s belief in themselves and their role as a global citizen.

In Cicely Lewis’s definition, a Read Woke Book must • Challenge a social norm • Give voice to the voiceless
• Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised • Seek to challenge the status quo
• Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group.

Read Woke also helps to create openings for discussion about what is happening in the world around us. Reading about an experience in a book readies a child for a larger discussion in a safe space. For instance, reading a book about anti-racism can spark discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, Canada and around the world, or reading Stolen Sisters by Emmanuelle Walter, for example, introduces us to the experience of Indigenous women in Canada. The empathy and understanding from reading a book can flow over into having a difficult discussion later at home or in the classroom.

To learn more about the Read Woke Challenge or to take part, visit the Halton Hills Public Library Read Woke website page.