Published: Oct. 31, 2022 By

3 Polaroid style photos of Ruth Cline
Teachers know their students and how to be helpful for them, and they shouldn’t depend on the school board or other agencies to tell them what to teach.”

Ruth Cline has always had a deep concern for education and access to books.

The 93-year-old former School of Education faculty member continues to work against book censorship even as a retiree now residing in Florida after 10 years as a high school teacher and 26 years as a CU Boulder professor.

When Cline was a high school teacher in Iowa in the 1950s, she remembers coaching the debate team as students grappled with the question: Should the federal government be involved in schools?

“Things have really escalated,” she said, raising her eyebrows at the current challenges aimed at schools.

“Teachers know their students and how to be helpful for them, and they shouldn’t depend on the school board or other agencies to tell them what to teach.

“I still don’t like all that interference with school curriculum. Now, the choices of teachers are questioned, they’re brought to school boards or their books are pulled from libraries. It’s ridiculous. If kids need to read the books, they should have the books to read. I think they are pretty good judges of what they need.”

Cline came from a family of educators. Her mother was a teacher, and her dad was a superintendent and state legislator. She remembers sitting on her father’s lap as a girl while he read her the newspaper. She was too young to understand the content, but she knew reading was important and beautiful.

“I thought that’s the way it’s always supposed to be,” she said.

However, reading was not always a prominent part of adolescence for many children and some teacher education programs. Cline dedicated her career to changing that.

She joined the CU Boulder education faculty in 1966, and she advocated for the power of books, wrote books on young adult literature and helped prepare future teachers. Cline worked with colleague and children’s literature instructor Virginia Westerberg on the hugely successful Children’s Literature Conference that featured authors and their writing inspiration for the benefit of Colorado teachers and CU Boulder students, parents and children. The conference model has recently been revived.

When Cline reflects on her time at CU Boulder, she is most proud of her work with students.

“I think of the students that really caught on fire, the ones that went way beyond what was expected of them,” she said. “That was a thrill.”

Cline’s goal for graduates was to keep reading to their classes and for themselves. Now, she is giving back to the School of Education to continue inspiring educators who love books.

Her gift will create the Cline Literacy Studies Suite, part of the newly renovated building and ongoing fundraising initiative for the School of Education. The suite will house library shelves full of books—free and clear of censorship.