This fall, Free Minds members made history! Free Minds was featured in a nationally televised program, PBS’s The Great American Read.
PBS sought out Free Minds with the idea to film our innovative book club program within the DC Jail. Given a national platform, Free Minds members on the education unit at the jail shared their unique perspectives on The Giver and the power of reading in the Heroes segment of the new series, The Great American Read. An eight part series designed to get the country “reading and passionately talking about books” through magnifying diverse voices and human experiences, The Great American Read highlights America’s 100 best-loved novels through compelling testimonials from celebrities, authors, and book admirers across the nation. We were so grateful to be chosen for this series!
The episode aired on September 25, 2018, and Free Minds staff, supporters, and Poet Ambassadors gathered inside the Thurgood Marshall Center to watch the remarkable moment unfold. Thrilled, we watched as Francis, Rodney, Joseph, Raymond, and other Free Minds members discussed Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which follows 12-year-old Jonas in a utopian society that is unveiled as dystopian. They drew poignant parallels between Jonas’s life in the stifling authoritarian fictional society, heroism, and their own experiences with mass incarceration and access to education. Celebrities like George Lopez, Carla Hayden, Jason Reynolds, and James Patterson were also featured in the episode. We were deeply moved to see our members’ voices amplified among this incredible community of readers.
Following the segment, Free Minds supporters, staff and members had a great discussion on how we can continue to break down stereotypes about those in the criminal justice system, and spread the word about books and reading changing lives.
Since the episode aired, viewers have voted on their favorite books, and selected To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee as America’s best-loved novel in The Great American Read. We’re thrilled to see so many people across the country engaging with literature, and we hope to see more books from diverse and underrepresented voices on the list in the future.
Free Minds Book Club would like to thank PBS for inviting our organization and the Department of Corrections to commemorate the importance of reading and giving our members the opportunity to expand the narrative of young scholars. We invite you all to please thank PBS as well!