Podcast episode

Reading Rights: America’s Literacy Challenge

Ideas to Innovation - Season Three

Episode description

In the United States today, there is growing evidence of the alarming state of literacy among children, with many continuing to read below grade levels. This isn’t just a matter of educational statistics, it’s a pressing social issue with far-reaching consequences. Lack of literacy skills increases the likelihood of incarceration, homelessness and high school dropout rates.

In this compelling episode of Ideas to Innovation podcast, we are joined in conversation by Jenny Mackenzie, an award-winning social justice documentary filmmaker whose work The Right to Read casts a spotlight on the critical literacy challenges facing America today.

Through her documentary, Jenny uncovers the startling reality of reading proficiency among children and its cascading effects on society, democracy, and economic opportunities. This episode delves into the transformative power of evidence-based reading instruction, highlighting the stories of individuals and families who are at the forefront of advocating for educational reform.

Jenny’s personal journey with dyslexia brings an authentic and poignant perspective to the conversation, underscoring the urgency of addressing literacy as a fundamental human right. She argues that literacy is the bedrock of innovation and achievement, essential for individuals to reach their full potential in an increasingly complex world. The discussion extends beyond the film, touching on the systemic barriers to effective reading education and the innovative solutions being implemented across the country to overcome them.

Our conversation also explores the broader implications of literacy on societal well-being, including its role in fostering critical thinking, civic engagement, and social equity. Jenny’s insights into the intersection of education, technology, and policy offer a comprehensive look at how collective action can ignite change, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed.

This episode is a must-listen for educators, policymakers, parents, and anyone interested in the pivotal role of literacy in shaping a more informed, empowered, and equitable society. Academic librarians will also find insights here that align with libraries’ core mission to preserve and disseminate knowledge.

You can find more information about the film at TheRightToReadFilm.org. You can also find The Right to Read in Academic Video Online, a streaming video collection available to academic libraries from ProQuest, part of Clarivate. Visit video.alexanderstreet.com and search for ‘The Right to Read’.


Jenny Mackenzie
Jenny Mackenzie
Director of The Right to Read documentary

Jenny is a documentary filmmaker who produces films that promote social change. Her films include KICK LIKE A GIRL, SUGAR BABIES, LEAD WITH LOVE, DYING IN VEIN, and the 2018 Sundance & Emmy-award winning film QUIET HEROES. Jenny’s films have aired on top broadcast and VOD channels such as HBO, HULU, PBS, and Amazon, and have received praise in the New York Times, LA Times and Variety. Jenny has a bachelor's degree from Brown University and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah and is an assistant professor in documentary film production at Utah Valley University.