CDF Freedom Schools® Program Launches ‘60 for 60 Read Aloud Campaign’ to Protect the Freedom to Read, Fight Book Bans Across America

The campaign looks to recruit 60 authors, illustrators, and photographers to serve as read aloud guests at CDF Freedom Schools sites in advance of the National Day of Social Action on Wednesday, July 17. ­

Media Contact:

John Henry,, CDF Media Relations Manager, 708-646-7679

Washington, D.C.—In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, the CDF Freedom Schools Program has launched the ‘60 for 60 Read Aloud Campaign.’

The effort aims to recruit 60 award-winning authors, illustrators, and photographers to serve as read aloud guests at CDF Freedom Schools sitesacross the country during the National Day of Social Action (NDSA), on Wednesday, July 17. CDF Freedom Schools staff has organized the campaign in collaboration with The Brown Bookshelf, a group that promotes African American literary creators and their work for young readers.

Children’s Defense Fund Founder and President Emerita Marian Wright Edelman organized the CDF Freedom Schools program 30 years ago to provide youth a culturally relevant literacy education during the summer. The annual six-week-long program is modeled after the freedom schools civil rights activists set up during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project to provide a more robust, civic engagement-centered educational curriculum for Black Mississippians during segregation. In 2024, CDF Freedom Schools will serve more than 13,000 K-12 scholars in 29 states and 102 cities.

“We must do everything we can to protect the freedom to read across the country as proposals to ban books of cultural relevance persist,” said CDF Freedom Schools National Director Dr. Kristal Moore Clemons. “We invite authors, illustrators, and photographers to join our CDF Freedom Schools partners on the National Day of Social Action to vocalize our opposition to this dangerous trend. Our young people are empowered when they learn about their own cultures and others. This campaign represents a wonderful opportunity to show that to the world.”

This year’s NDSA theme is “Protect the Freedom to Read.” CDF Freedom Schools partnerswill organize community events in opposition to literary censorship, coast-to-coast, on that day. Last year, CDF Freedom Schools scholars organized marches and legislative rallies aligned with the theme to reduce gun violence in America.

Authors, illustrators, and photographers interested in participating in CDF Freedom Schools’ 60 for 60 Read Aloud Campaign can learn more and sign up here. Literary creators who register will ultimately read a book of their choice, or one that is provided to them by CDF Freedom Schools staff, for roughly ten minutes during the Harambee portion of their NDSA event. Harambee is the thirty-minute period CDF Freedom Schools sitesset aside every morning to start scholars’ learning experience with joy and intentionality. Creators will then join locally held marches, rallies, and protests organized by K-12 CDF Freedom Schools scholars, site staff, families, and community members as they use their voices and the power of collective action to demand others join them in protecting the freedom to read.

Kelly Starling-Lyons, Rita Lorraine Hubbard, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Tracey Baptiste, Zetta Elliott, and Sharon Langley are some of the authors and illustrators who have already committed to participate in the 60 for 60 Read Aloud Campaign in CDF Freedom School sites in California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee.

*If you would like to learn more about this important reading campaign, reach out to CDF Media Relations Manager John Henry to set up an interview with a member of CDF Freedom Schools staff in advance of NDSA.

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About Children’s Defense Fund

Founded in 1973, Children’s Defense Fund envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. The only national, multi-issue advocacy organization working at the intersection of child well-being and racial justice, CDF advances the well-being of America’s most diverse generation, the 74 million children and youth under the age of 18 and 30 million young adults under the age of 25. CDF’s grassroots movements in marginalized communities build power for child-centered public policy, informed by racial equity and the lived experience of children and youth. Its renowned CDF Freedom Schools® program is conducted in nearly 100 cities across 30 states and territories. Learn more at