Activist Andrea Liao: Book The Future
Meet Andrea Liao, activist and founder of Book The Future - an organization that provides reading resources to youth with a goal of global literacy!
Tell us about yourself and your work! What causes are you passionate about / involved in and how did you get started in activism work?
My name is Andrea Liao. I am sixteen years old and a high school junior from the Greater Seattle Area. I believed in the importance of literacy from a young age; I was inspired to advocate for youth literacy due to my own love of literature. I spent my childhood in the pages of my favorite books and I was raised between bookshelves of local libraries. I have always been able to find solace in my favorite literary worlds and characters.
I discovered my voice through poetry and prose. In a poem titled Effacing Identity, penned at age 14, I confessed: “I’ve never understood reality / and how to live with it / but I can efface identity / until I find one that fits society / even if it doesn’t fit me.” It was, perhaps, in this very moment that I was rendered vulnerable yet restless, despairing yet resolute.
Today, I am passionate about a variety of causes. I still find myself perplexed by and agitated at the “society” I yielded to in Effacing Identity. Especially in the past few years, literature has been my catalyst for action and my medium for change. I have come to believe more than ever that literacy is a form of empowerment: it has the potential to raise us and the power to unite us.
What is Book the Future? What is its mission? How is literacy crucial to creating a better world and future? How are you helping to achieve this goal?
Founded in January of 2018, Book the Future is an organization dedicated to global youth literacy. Our mission is to make education more accessible, working towards a future in which every child is able to grow up in an environment with ample access to reading resources. We believe that providing diverse books for children is a crucial step towards giving them the agency to improve their futures. Literature is a form of empowerment, providing various avenues for exploration and growth. Book the Future hopes to ensure that literacy is not a privilege, but a fundamental right.
Book the Future’s ongoing literacy campaign consists of three main programs. Our primary program, bimonthly book drives, supports families in need. Throughout the year, we collect and deliver reading resources to a variety of organizations: refugee centers, children’s hospitals, under-funded school districts, foster care homes, educational centers for children with special needs, and more. With Represent the Future, we place emphasis on representation and diversity in literature in order to promote the message of inclusivity. In the summer, we host numerous events in the Greater Seattle Area, such as writing workshops, literacy camps, read-a-thons, and more, often in partnership with other local organization(s). Notably, we held the “Write the Future” workshop in collaboration with the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas in July of 2019.
Our digital magazine features work submitted by teens that explore the intersections between activism, the arts and storytelling. We publish poetry, journalism, short stories, photography, short films, the visual arts, the performing arts, and more. Each December, Book the Future selects a “Teen Activist of the Year” from the eleven young adults featured.
In 2020, we are launching a blog to celebrate our third-year anniversary—as well as the start of the new decade. The blog is, of course, dedicated to literature; it will serve as an open space to discuss both books and encourage activism.
What power do youth hold in our world today?
In today’s world, we talk so loudly yet we act so softly. Consequently, I believe that youth activism has become increasingly crucial in today’s political climate. I am constantly inspired by the passionate youths I meet at different events. Today more than ever, it is important to follow your passions, to take initiative on an issue that warrants action, and to create positive change. Modern youth activism has manifested through various different methods and mediums, including raising awareness by holding demonstrations, advocating for legislation, fundraising for cause, supporting your immediate community, reaching out to those who have a platform, educating others, and more. The future is indeed in the hands of the youth.
As a magazine, our mission is “dare to defy” boundaries, barriers, and expectations. How have you been “defiant” in your own life?
In contrast to the fourteen-year-old who yielded under the pressures of the “society” she addressed, the sixteen-year-old challenges and defies. With Book the Future, I endeavor for literacy to serve as the genesis of change and action, and I hope to encourage others against remaining compliant. As demonstrated by the name of my organization, I believe that books will play a part in shaping a better future, starting with the words and work of the youth.
*In 2019, Effacing Identity was published in Canvas Literary Journal; a few months after its publication, I plucked up the courage to perform my fourteen-year-old musings at the 2019 Northwest Folklife Festival.