Every activist educator has got to read. We read to learn from the insights, stories and experiences of each other. We read so that we can engage with the world and our classrooms in more informed and meaningful ways. Books don’t change the world but they can change the way we see the world.

There are a few books that have inspired our work at Bottomup and that our staff have engaged with in our staff collective reading sessions and in preparation for workshops and camps. We decided to share our list of favourites with you in hope that they may inspire you in your own work and teaching.

Here are our top five:

The Right to Learn by Pam Christie
The Right to Learn offers a really good introduction to the history of education struggles in South Africa under Apartheid. The introductory chapter also invites readers to consider various (sociological) perspectives on education and how education is always a site of contestation.

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
A classic, Pedagogy of the Oppressed attempts to conceptualise a liberatory education for oppressed people. In the book, Freire is concerned about both emancipation of the mind and concrete/material social change. For Freire, the key to true liberation is the awakening of critical consciousness. 

Doing Critical Literacy: Texts and Activities for Students by Hilary Janks
This book/activity guide by Hilary Janks is a treasure trove of practical exercises and activities for teaching critical literacy skills and is designed to help students recognise the relationship between language and power. Texts are not neutral and all texts have social effects.  ‘Doing Critical Literacy’ attempts to equip readers with skills for analysing texts, so that they can recognise and speak back to the messages they are constantly bombarded with.  


Rethinking Our Classrooms Volume 1 by Rethinking Schools
It’s a bit hard to choose just one book from Rethinking Schools. If you haven’t heard of them, check out their website – they have produced several books which are really helpful for the critical pedagogue. Volume one is a collection of essays concerning creative teaching ideas and hands-on examples from teachers who seek to promote justice and equity in school classrooms. You can try two essays from the book here and here to get a feel of what is packed into Volume one.

Pedagogy of Liberation by Paulo Freire and Ira Shor
Okay, so we had to sneak in another Freire book but Pedagogy of Liberation is actually really good and provides some further clarity on questions that may be raised in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It is written in dialogue format and is really a conversation between Freire and Shor on critical pedagogy that blends theoretical investigation with practical concerns. It is strongly recommended to read this together with the Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Happy reading! We’d love to hear your thoughts.