Let Florida Read: A Read-In To Celebrate The Freedom To Read

Let Florida Read, a joint partnership between Florida Freedom to Read Project and Florida Association for Media in Education is celebrating the freedom to read with a Read-In on March 21st at the Common Ground Bookstore in Tallahassee, Florida. 

Support by PEN America, PEN America’s South Florida Chapter, We Need Diverse Books, EveryLibrary, and Southern Poverty Law Center, the Read-In will feature bestselling authors Alicia D. Williams, Phil Bildner, Ellen Oh, and Dhonielle Clayton as well as four student activists from across the state. These esteemed guest speakers will discuss the power of literature and the importance of freely accessing and reading books.


Schedule of events:

  • Let Florida Read is hosting a community read-in at Common Ground Books starting at 3pm. This is a BYFB: Bring your favorite book event! We WILL have inclusive books available written by our authors for student attendees.
  • Between 3:30-4:15 pm, come hear keynote and guest speakers, and Florida students, educators, and other concerned citizens and community members who want to preserve the freedom to read.
  • 4:30 Press Conference


Alicia D. Williams is the author of Genesis Begins Again, which received the Newbery and Kirkus Prize honors, was a William C. Morris prize finalist, and won the Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Alicia D also debuted a picture book biography, Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston. And followed up with Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress and The Talk, both a Coretta Scott King and Golden Kite Honor Book. Alicia shares a passion for storytelling which stems from conducting school residencies as a Master Teaching Artist of arts-integration. Alicia D infuses her love for drama, movement, and storytelling to inspire students to write. 

Phil Bilder is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous books for kids. His latest book is the 2021 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award Honor-winning middle grade novel, A High Five for Glenn Burke. He is the author of many children’s picture books including the Margaret Wise Brown Prize winning Marvelous Cornelius, the Texas Bluebonnet Award winning Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy, Martina & Chrissie, Twenty-One Elephants, and The Soccer Fence. Phil is also the author of A Whole New Ballgame, Rookie of the Year, Tournament of Champions, and Most Valuable Players in the critically acclaimed middle grade Rip & Red series. In 2017, Phil founded The Author Village, this author booking business. He now represents over fifty book creators for young people and educators. 

Dhonielle Clayton is a New York Times Bestselling author of The Belles series, Shattered Midnight, co-author of Blackout, and the co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things duology, a Netflix original series. She hails from the Washington, D.C. suburbs on the Maryland side. She taught secondary school for several years, and is a former elementary and middle school librarian. She is COO of the non-profit We Need Diverse Books, and President of Cake Creative, an IP story kitchen dedicated to diverse books for all ages. She’s an avid traveler, and always on the hunt for magic and mischief. Up next: The Marvellers, her middle grade fantasy debut. You can find her on social media @brownbookworm. 

Ellen Oh is a former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history. She is an award winning author of the middle grade novels Finding Junie Kim, The Dragon Egg Princess, and The Spirit Hunters trilogy, and the YA fantasy trilogy The Prophecy Series. She is also the editor of the middle grade anthology Flying Lessons and Other Stories, and the YA anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. Ellen is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature. Originally from New York City, Ellen lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband, three children, two dogs, and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

Activist Jack PetoczJack Petocz (he/him) is an 18 year-old student activist hailing from Flagler County, Florida. Identifying as gay, Petocz is well regarded for fighting for LGBTQ+ equality, particularly in the sector of education. Some of his recent work includes challenging discriminatory book banning, being the lead organizer of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” school walkout, and questioning legislative ineptitude at political rallies.

Olivia Solomon is a senior at the University of Central Florida, studying Political Science and Writing. She has worked in political activism and organizing since the age of 16 with March For Our Lives. Olivia is graduating this summer and hopes to continue work in advocacy and politics. 

Will Larkins is an 18 year old senior at Winter Park High School and the co-founder and president of the school’s Queer Student Union. Will is a student organizer and LGBTQ+ activist. They organized their school’s “Say Gay Anyway” walkout of 600 students, wrote an Op-Ed published in the New York Times and gave the keynote speech at Harvard Law School’s Youth Summit. They were named one of GLADD’s 20 under 20, one of NBC’s 2022 #PRIDE30, LGBTQ Nation’s Hero of the Year, a recipient of a Webby Award for best social movement and a recipient of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s student activist award. As a Grand Marshall of Orlando Pride, Will is leading queer Gen Z in their fight for liberation and equality. 

Tallulah Brand is an 11 year old honors student from Sarasota, Florida. Her interest in books being banned in schools started when her school district froze all new book purchases and donations. She began speaking at school board meetings to give a voice to students and recently stopped the book Stamped from being banned in her school district. Her speech at that special district meeting even went viral and was featured in news organizations such as Huffington Post in the article “Gov. Ron DeSantis Doesn’t Want You To Learn About Real Black History.” She’s been interviewed by The Washington Post, Radio Canada, and BBC among others. When not fighting book bans she studies Creative Writing and performs in the Circus as part of the Visual and Performing Arts program at her school. 

Michelle Jarrett is the current president of the Florida Association for Supervisors of Media (FASM) and a two time president of the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME). Married for 26 years and a parent of two young adults, Michelle serves as the library supervisor for the School District of Osceola County and has been a library media specialist for 19 years.