News & Events

UMPI to host “The Right to Read” film screening

Through an effort led by the Maine Department of Education, the University of Maine at Presque Isle will be one of five sites in Maine to host a live screening of the documentary film The Right to Read, an award-winning film about a topic that filmmakers describe as the “greatest civil rights issue of our time”: literacy. The screening will take place at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 in UMPI’s Campus Center, and will be followed by a question and answer session with a Maine Department of Education official and local teachers. The public is invited to attend this free event.

The Maine Department of Education’s Office of Special Services and Inclusive Education will host five live screenings of this documentary film throughout Maine, as well as provide a week of virtual access to ensure equitable access across the state. The Right to Read is a 71-minute film, directed by Jenny Mackenzie and executive produced by Levar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame.

“Being literate is an issue of equity. Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are gatekeepers for learning and for participating productively in today’s world,” Danielle Saucier, Inclusive Education Literacy Specialist and Dyslexia Coordinator with the Maine Department of Education, said. “Brain research conducted over the past several decades has revealed the processes involved in becoming literate and has underscored the aspects of instructional practice essential for promoting strong beginning reading and literacy abilities. We are happy to co-host The Right to Read documentary with partners across the state to champion the importance of statewide awareness of high-quality literacy.”

The Right to Read shines a spotlight on the American literacy crisis by sharing the stories of NAACP activist Kareem Weaver, first-grade teacher Sabrina Causey, and two American families fighting to provide the youngest generation with the most foundational indicator of life-long success: the ability to read. The film received the Audience Award at the Harlem International Film Festival and was a Film Selection at South by Southwest Education 2023.

In a director’s statement, filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie stated: “Our team has traveled far and wide to bring stories of the literacy crisis to a nationwide audience. I hope this film will help audiences understand how high stakes this literacy crisis is, and lead them to join the activists, educators, and parents who are working for widespread change. I believe that Kareem’s activism, Teresa’s advocacy, and the Adams-Staples’s determination will inspire others to join the fight to ensure every child is given the right to read.”

“We are so excited to host this event at the University of Maine at Presque Isle,” Dr. Wendi Malenfant, Director of UMPI’s Education Program and Associate Professor of Education, said. “We believe in the power of literacy and want to do all we can to promote it in our community. Join us as we shine a light on the literacy crisis and learn more about how we can do our part to promote change.”

For more information, visit The Right to Read website, view the trailer, or contact Dr. Malenfant at (207) 768-9435 or wendi.malenfant@maine.edu.