The Read Woke website for South Ayrshire stated that the project which was first piloted in 2021 aims to “awaken our students to a range of important issues, enlighten them, and encourage them to think critically and with empathy when forming opinions”.
The project has provided “a range of class sets of novels to allow teachers to immerse their classes in the books and stories at the core of this project”, and has undertaken the work of “significantly upgrading our library stock”, with reading lists of books on race issues being created for this purpose.
The project was adopted from the Read Woke idea of Cicely Lewis, a US librarian, and has been supported by funding from Scotland’s School Library Improvement Fund.
‘Put the books in the bin’
In January 2023, Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Education Secretary, welcomed the “anti-racism focus of the projects” supported to date by the Fund, saying they would “allow school libraries to engage with pupils on the importance of belonging, inclusion and social justice”.
The Read Woke project has drawn criticism, however, from the Don’t Divide Us campaign.
Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, the founder, told the Telegraph: “This initiative is normalising politically radical and partisan beliefs. It will do nothing to help teachers teach pupils how to read, and has little to do with education more generally.
“Our advice to schools is to either put the books in the recycling bin, or keep them for the next CPD and invite speakers from Read Woke and Don’t Divide Us to discuss why this is/is not suitable curriculum content.”
The reading list for secondary school pupils includes Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Imbram X. Kendi, and Black and British: A Short, Essential History by David Olusoga.