Free Ayn Rand Books to Teachers: A Professor’s Perspective

Occasionally, in a blog post, we will highlight important parts of the Ayn Rand Institute’s Annual Report. For 2016, our focus is on the Institute’s Free Books to Teachers program from the perspective of Shoshana Milgram, associate professor of English at Virginia Tech and a long-time supporter of the program.

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I frequently ask my Virginia Tech college students, at the beginning of the semester, to name their favorite books. Overwhelmingly, they indicate the usual suspects, the books assigned for classes. They do so even when I specifically ask them not to limit themselves to required reading. Some students, to be sure, are attempting to conform to conventional values. But some students have discovered, among the books they read as school assignments, inexhaustible treasures of inspiration.

When I learned about the Free Books to Teachers program, I thought that it was an important project (reaching potential readers at a vital time in their lives), and one that I wanted to support. Ayn Rand’s own books are the ideal first-hand promotion of her work. The Free Books to Teachers program, by providing the novels to any teacher who commits to teaching them, provides a clear incentive for including Ayn Rand in the curriculum.

I have contributed financially, since the inception of the program. I generally target areas of the country that I know personally or that I believe would especially benefit from the opportunity.

I was fortunate to discover Ayn Rand relatively early; my daughters and son read her books even earlier in their lives than I did. I hope that the books will reach readers who might not have found them in their teens, or at all. For that matter, the books may also educate teachers, who will study the books in order to include them in courses, and who will learn from their own students the value of Ayn Rand’s writing.

I have also chosen to include, in the books I sponsor, bookplates to honor the memory of my son, who loved Anthem and The Fountainhead, but whose life was cut short by cancer before he had a chance to read We the Living and Atlas Shrugged. The plates say: “In memory of Dashiell Ari Knapp, who loved the novels of Ayn Rand.”

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We hope you’ll consider joining the group of ARI supporters who, like Shoshana, are giving young people the opportunity to read Ayn Rand’s novels. Donate to ARI now and simply indicate “Free Books” in the comments section of the support page; we’ll take care of the rest. If you’d like to follow Shoshana’s example and specify where your dollars are spent, just say so in the comment and we will contact you to discuss your choice.