By Dr. Kamshia Childs | Categories All | Book Deserts | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Community | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Opportunity Gap | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | October 8, 2021

A literacy environment should be cultivated by its curriculum.  Learning how to read and develop literacy skills is a process that will benefit a child their entire life.  It is the foundation for other subjects, and a manner in which students learn to communicate and learn about their world, near and far.

The process to teach the required skills necessary is complex, and varies depending on the needs of each learner. In my experience, literacy teaching and learning should be a “dream”. A dream in the sense of literacy learning being a priceless gift—and a dream in the sense of having curriculum and teaching practices which address Diversity, Relevance, Engagement, Access, Motivation (D.R.E.A.M.).

D.R.E.A.M. Literacy focuses on practices being implemented into instruction by educators, as well as encourages at-home support and partnerships in using diverse texts, popular culture and technology, and multimodal resources.  D.R.E.A.M. represents several pieces necessary to address and provide quality and equitable literacy instruction for all. When planning literacy lessons, assignments, and making curriculum decisions educators and parents should consider the following elements:

Diversity

Diversity brings about a wide spectrum of issues that educators can be faced with.  Willingness to learn, accept, and apply the culture (VERY IMPORTANT: Culture does not just mean ethnicity or race) of students to instructional practices is key. Here are some ways to address diversity in literacy:

 

Relevance

Students need to know how to apply the knowledge being taught, and how it applies to them.  Students want to feel like they are included and are represented in a learning environment. Students want to know why it’s important, and how it is useful. Students need to know why they are developing literacy skills and where they will encounter them in their future. Making content relevant includes:

 

Engagement

Engagement starts with learning the interests of the students, merged with the academic knowledge needed. Engagement also involves educators utilizing multimodal approaches in their lessons and work with students. Some great multimodal literacy strategies include:

 

Access

Ease of access to resources and empowering parents/guardians to help build literacy skills at home is necessary for growth. Not all students have the opportunity to have access to books in their home. If books and reading are left out of the home environment, is it really that important for a child and their family? Insight on how to continue a child’s learning outside of the classroom doors is crucial.  The following ideas are recommended:

 

Motivation

As far as motivation, our role is to grow our students’ skills and learn what makes them excited to learn—this is very important with students who have so many unique needs that are changing as society changes daily. The main ingredient for motivation in a literacy classroom is choice.

 

In closing, a literacy environment should thrive on partnership between the internal and external learning communities.  Parents and educators are the essential component that provides students the opportunity to see literacy as a tool of advancement and an escape— teamwork makes the “dream” work.

 

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By Dr. Kamshia Childs | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | October 1, 2021

Most students either really love to read and find joy in growing and sharpening their literacy skills, or they feel the opposite. Their experience depends on two things- the instructional decisions made and the environment in which they learn.  Educators are often told to create a “literacy rich” or “print rich” classroom setting, but what does that really mean? R.I.C.H. should address four different aspects: Relevancy, Inclusiveness, Creativity, and Hands-On approaches.

Relevancy

Students, younger and older are often disconnected from the literacy skills and expectations that are required in standards-based instruction and assessment. This is because they don’t see the “bigger picture” of learning the skills and strategies that are often taught in isolation. The foundational stages of literacy involve building word sense, concepts of print, and lots of repetition and practice—but educators shouldn’t stop there. The students who often struggle lack the connectedness and relevancy of the materials shared. To gain sense of relevancy and what resonates with students, conversations, bookstack cultivation, and surveys should take place.

Inclusiveness

Relevancy and inclusiveness go hand in hand.  Whether planning the instruction or the “look” of a space, students need to see themselves in the materials presented. Not only do students need to see themselves, but they need to see others who are not like them as well.

When thinking about inclusivity and literacy, one might think of diversity, and the representation of various racial and ethnic backgrounds and perspectives. This is crucial, but just a starting point. Representation can be present in literacy settings, and students still not understand the importance or value of a concept or idea. Therefore, it is important to know that in addition to representation, students need to be exposed to an environment that allows them to feel safe (with learning new skills and contributing), and take risks (with new strategies, with new resources), and be inclusive of families (inside and outside of the classroom).

Creativity

Literacy learning is often repetitive and can be boring for some. The more creativity that is sparked within lessons—the better. Creative ideas for literacy learning involve using traditional skills and practical, everyday materials and happenings to get students to understand.

Example: Connecting technological and popular culture terms with academic literacy terms

Hands-On Approaches

We want students to read, but don’t give them enough opportunity to write (or see the correlation between the two).  We ask students about other writers and authors’ ideas, but don’t challenge them to see themselves as authors.  Writing centers, blogging opportunities, and spaces where students can critique and explore all facets of literacy (listening, speaking, reading, writing) is a climate that would provide hands-on learning in a “R.I.C.H.” classroom.

 

The literacy environment has evolved, just as education has changed.  Teachers often create themes at the beginning of a school year, and it is to get students excited about being in their class. The literacy environment needs a R.I.C.H. environment that is tailored to the needs of the students who are being served, and the learning community as a whole.

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By Shannon Anderson | Categories All | Book Deserts | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Community | Engagement - Family | Equity | Events | Funding | Games | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Opportunity Gap | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | Summer Reading | July 15, 2021

How do you get kids excited about books? Over my 25 years of teaching, I’ve discovered many ways to spark excitement. Here are 10 to get you started:

  1. Start an After-School Book Club

Invite a guest reader from the community to kick off the meetings. After the read-aloud, the kids spread out to read independently or with a friend. You can also invite a high school sport team or club to buddy read with the kids.

  1. Be a “Book Fairy”

Use your points from Scholastic book clubs or grants to gift books to kids. Try to give every student a book by the end of the year. Kids love the surprise and owning their own book is more special than borrowing, so they treasure it.

  1. Invite Guest Leaders as Readers

Leaders in schools and the community love to be a part of this and your students will be inspired to see what some of their role models read. Invite the football coach, the mayor, chief of police, a local veterinarian, and others to share a favorite book.

  1. Encourage Kid-Created Contagious Book Reviews

When a student reads a book they love, have them create a book review to share with the class. You can do these live, or have kids create a video. You can even take the videos, create a QR code for them, and adhere the QR code inside the cover of the books!

  1. Hold a Reading Marathon

The day of the “marathon,” have kids wear running gear, create paper running bibs, allow healthy snacks and water bottles, and read all day! Have kids read independently, in pairs, Zoom in guest readers and authors, and YOU should read aloud to them too.

  1. Kick off the Year with a Book Tasting Event

Use tablecloths and place settings and serve a pile of books on plates. Provide wish lists for your students to jot down the books they are interested in reading that year. This is a great way to get kids familiar with your classroom library and excited about what they get to read! (Use their lists to get ideas for book fairy visits too!)

  1. Host Book-Bartering Days

Kids bring in a book that they’re willing to part with in exchange for another book from someone in the classroom. Students give a 30 second pitch on what they loved about the book they’re offering. Arrange the books on tables and allow students to make their selections.

  1. Get Your Own Little Free Library

As a class, write a grant for a Little Free Library for your school. Your class will love this service project and visit it often! To fill the library, send home a request for gently used books as a donation to the Little Free Library. You will be surprised at how many books come in!

  1. Host Chat and Chews

Choose a book you have multiple copies of. You can make book marks with the dates for each meeting and what chapters need to be read each time. On assigned dates, enjoy your lunch and discuss the chapters of the book together!

  1. Have an Author Visit!

I may be biased, since I’m a children’s book author who LOVES to do author visits, but I truly believe in their power. Kids love to meet authors in person and have a renewed passion for reading and writing afterward. From hearing the story behind the stories, or special secrets the author shares, it is a memorable experience.

 

When kids see you make reading a priority and a treat to be enjoyed, they are on their way to becoming life-long readers.

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By Dr. Andrew Johnson | Categories All | Choices | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Family | Games | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | Social Emotional Learning | July 9, 2021

Check out these 12 simple tips from Dr. Andrew Johnson to help your child become a better reader!

  1. Read to your child
  2. Expose your child to words
  3. Use pretend reading
  4. Expose to rhymes, rhyming books, nursery rhymes, poetry, music
  5. Reread the same book
  6. Read bedtime stories

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By Anthony J. Butler | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Events | Games | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | June 25, 2021

The young students frantically waved their hands high in the air. They couldn’t wait to run to the front of the gym and participate in a game I call, “5 in Ten!”. I recently spoke with hundreds of students in different settings (urban, rural, and suburban) and they all enjoyed “5 in 10’!”. The gist of this interactive game is to name 5______ in ten seconds.

The catch is that the students do not know what I will ask them until I say, “go!”. For example, I will call someone up to the front of the class, gym, auditorium, etc. and immediately say, “Name 5 dances in ten seconds…go!”. I typically will have the audience be my shot clock and provide a whisper countdown…10…9…8….7…6…..5…4….3…2..1…Short Buzzer sound! The choices one can use are endless. I can ask participants to name 5 dogs, 5 birds, 5 pizza toppings, 5 songs, 5 movies, 5 shoes, 5 cars, 5 words that start with the letter “A”, etc.

I use “5 in 10” as an ice breaker for students, staff, parents, and families of all ages when I present. Similarly to “5 in 10”, I also use “3 in 5” and “1 in 3.” These are variations of the same “5 in 10” game with the exception that you have to name 3____ in 5 seconds and 1_____ in 3 seconds. Even in virtual environments, students. staff, and parents are excited to play these games!

It was a breath of fresh air to many who were struggling with the remote learning options that were very rigid at times. These fun games get students to speak in front of others. I use it to enhance listening. I use it to help with the correlation between listening, speaking, writing, and reading as well. Before I tackle reading, I typically get students to listen. Historically, stories were told orally (speaking) and the hearer had to “listen well” to pass the story on. Many of these stories were written and these words were read from papers and books. The correlation between listening, speaking, writing, and reading must be leveraged more.

 

Below are a few ways you can leverage the fun to get some reading gains!

 

So here is my call to action for you! At the very least, please try “5 in 10”, “3 in 5”, and “1 in 3” with your students, colleagues, and families. Let me know how they enjoyed it! Remember to leverage the fun as you learn!

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By Stacey Montgomery | Categories All | Challenges | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Family | Journaling | Listening | Results | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | June 11, 2021

Journaling is a common way to encourage young learners to express themselves while also supporting the academic skills of reading and writing. As a reflective tool, journaling is popular among therapists as the therapeutic benefits of journaling are well-established. It’s not surprising that journaling can also be an effective way to help children enhance self-awareness, one of the 5 core competencies of social emotional learning as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to assess one’s own strengths and limitations.  It includes identifying and understanding the different aspects of oneself, such as emotions, traits, behaviors, and achievements.   Self-awareness is important for children because it sets the stage for greater academic and social success. Children who have a better understanding of themselves tend to make better choices to help them be successful in and out of school.

To attain increased self-awareness, it is necessary to focus attention on oneself.  While we are born with a rudimentary sense of self-awareness that continues to develop as we mature, it is a competency that children can improve even more through purposeful reflection and introspection. Journaling, specifically guided journaling, is an effective strategy for this.

What is guided journaling?

Guided journaling involves providing meaningful writing prompts to which the child responds. The prompts give the child a specific starting point that guides them to a particular place and help the child explore their feelings. In some instances the prompts necessitate a full page response, while other prompts may require just a few words.

The goal is to provide young learners a unique opportunity to reflect about themselves and their experiences in order to achieve gains in self-awareness. While the same information can be shared verbally, the physical act of writing deepens the reflection and enhances the learning. The addition of prompts helps guide the student to look inward to examine and understand the many aspects of themselves.

When should guided journaling be used?

The starting point for social emotional growth is an understanding of self. That requires looking inward. Students are not often asked to proactively look inward in a meaningful, consistent way. They are more likely to be asked to examine their emotions and identify their personal qualities and achievements in response to a problem. Integrating guided journaling into the curriculum as a weekly practice can help support the social emotional development that every child needs.

A good place to start are prompts that ask students to recognize personal qualities.  I typically ask students to journal about their hobbies or subjects they enjoy at school. I sometimes ask them to describe an achievement and how they feel about it.

After spending time reflecting and responding to these types of prompts, students are likely to discover that they have many positive qualities, including qualities they may not have given much thought to in the past. Examples of comments from students after this type of journaling experience include, “I’ve done a lot!” and “I’m not boring!”

To a child, this process is empowering.

Other journaling prompt ideas that support self-awareness include:

 

As a result of the simple yet powerful practice of guided journaling, students will realize gains in confidence which is a sign of increased self-awareness.  When guided journaling for self-awareness is practiced regularly, the social emotional learning gains are more likely to be lasting.

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By Sanne Rothman | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Family | Games | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | Social Emotional Learning | June 4, 2021

We want our kids to reach for the stars, dream big, think for themselves and grow up with a life and career that they happily built. But how when the winding path to achieve such goals involves so many variables and, sometimes, challenges that may be out of our control? Well, there is a way, and the path is actually straight forward. I’ve walked it myself with the many students I’ve had the honor of teaching. It’s a ticket that our children can take anywhere and it opens all doors no matter the variables. It’s Reading to be a Critical Thinker.

In education, all roads converge with Reading. Reading is key to becoming a Critical Thinker. And Critical Thinkers reach whatever stars they set their eyes on. Simple Reading strategies to obtain Critical Thinking Skills are easy and exciting.

The technical definition of Critical Thinking is to utilize data, decipher fact from fiction, gather information to synthesize, reflect and find resolution. Because our kiddos are not quite ready to knock out a dissertation, it’s easy to swat the entire concept away. After all, we want them to enjoy reading. Not to fret. The real-world, enjoyable, application of Critical Thinking that I teach is much smoother: Emphasize conversation not curriculum.

Two simple strategies reap indispensable rewards:

  1. Set a comfortable reading routine; 20-30 minutes daily and if the child wants to read longer, then great. However, never allow reading to be a chore or punishment.
  2. Check in with your child by asking about what they read; a 5-10 minute conversation twice a week can accomplish this and when you can do more, then great.

Yet, there isn’t always time to read every word your child read. So how will you know what to ask? Simply ask anchor questions like the examples below and keep the conversation lighthearted. When a child has this consistent interaction, they naturally find deeper meaning as they connect to the story and build a greater awareness of the world around them.

 

Ask about any fiction book:

 

Ask about any nonfiction book:

 

Playing an active role in a child’s reading is nothing less than exceptional. Encourage them and you will engage them. Have fun involving your child in book selections, yet also expand their palette by seeking a variety of fiction and nonfiction. Soon, it will be second nature for your extraordinary child to read beyond the page. Critical Thinkers are lifelong learners, reflective, more responsible, innovators and their opportunities are plenty. They pave their own road ahead and won’t just reach for the stars, they will probably find and name a few new ones. So begin sharing the joy of reading today.

Sanne Rothman engagement

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By Dr. Julie Padilla | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Equity | Inclusion | Listening | Results | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | May 7, 2021

Every single day we are tasked with ensuring that our students are entering into our building safely, that they are to learn wholeheartedly, and that they get to experience a wide variety of knowledge along the way. In doing this, as educators one of the pivotal roles we play is to promote classroom conversations. These discussions, these special moments of discourse, are necessary to allow students the time to pull apart their own ideas, formulate their own opinions, and better understand others. We have seen the world swiftly change in the past year, more than we ever thought it would. We want to be sure to do our part to provide a forum of opportunity for our students to speak about real-world events. In doing this effectively, there are three main approaches that should be taken into account across grade and content levels:

Establishing norms

Classroom rules and norms are a regularly occurrence, but we want to be sure we revisit them before conversations. Our students need safe community spaces to process information, so having set expectations for when students can speak, how they can address each other respectfully and mindfully, and how it can foster a positive classroom culture are all critical.

Role as a Facilitator

The classroom teacher needs to take ownership of the facilitator role. No matter what age your students are, it is easy to want to jump in and help a student clarify their own thought. But as a facilitator, as furthering this classroom conversation, it involves taking a big step back and not influencing or exerting an opinion or stance. Allow your young people to take the mic, to process their thoughts, and use their own words to inform you. This should be a big moment as they work through their own pieces of information, their own views, and find their footing.

Debrief

As you wrap up these conversations, we want to be sure to tie back to those classroom norms and expectations. We are all growing, we are all learning, we are all evolving, from students to adults. Reassure them that while differences exist, it is the power of understanding one another and having respectful conversations that allows us to make change.

These necessary conversations establish and support the classroom community. They allow for relationships to thrive, for inspiration to occur, and for student engagement to be accelerated. It shows students that we know they are aware of what is going on in the world today, and we want to be there for them in any capacity that we can. It shows students we care.

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By Valarie Pearce, MEd | Categories All | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Community | Engagement - Family | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Opportunity Gap | Parents | Reading | Results | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | April 16, 2021

How reading helps children learn social emotional skills

I am a lover of all things book and the written word. As a child, I was precocious and very curious. Thankfully, my father had a great passion for reading and ensured that I, along with my siblings, understood the importance of literacy and that it was something never to be taken for granted. “Many of our ancestors gave their lives for the right to read,” my father would often preach. I wanted to know what he was talking about. Why and how could this happen? In addition, my brain was alive with princesses, dragons, and secret gardens I got to meet often through what remains one of my greatest and most enduring loves, books.

Much of my advanced vocabulary, ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings, empathy for others, and sharp view of the world around me was a direct result of the abundance of books afforded me. I was a proud card-carrying member of the library! I loved checking out Puff the Magic Dragon with its accompanying record tucked in the back (yes, I am proudly dating myself), The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

These books and many others whisked this little Black girl from small city Portland, Oregon to unknown lands of epic trials and triumphs. The ability to read, write, comprehend, and decode the written word was just the beginning. The pure enjoyment of reading was the vehicle that aided me and will ultimately do so for our students today; expanding their minds to the immeasurable possibilities for connection with each other and the world around them.

As the Director of Content Development for Friendzy, a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program for K-8 students, I continue my literacy evangelizing. After all, I am the daughter of a preacher! Research has shown that reading supports SEL. At Friendzy we frame our SEL literacy supports through five distinct frameworks:

  1. Learning social-emotional skills.

    Reading helps children gain a greater understanding of emotions, which can help them understand their own emotions and those of others.

  2. Develop empathy.

    Reading a story creates space for kids to imagine themselves inside the story. This allows them to develop empathy as they experience the lives of other characters and can identify with how they are feeling.

  3. Practice perspective-taking.

    Reading allows children to learn about a wide array of people, places, and events that they may not otherwise experience.

  4. Improve cognitive development.

    Reading provides children with a deeper understanding of the world and fills their brains with a wide range of knowledge. They then use this acquired knowledge to make sense of what they see, hear and read.

  5. Builds relationships and connections.

    Reading brings a classroom of students together for a shared adventure. It  also provides parents with an opportunity to have dedicated time with their children. Reading together provides kids with feelings of connection, attention and is nourishing to the soul.

These key components shift the literacy lens from simply learning to read to reading to learn with great enthusiasm. As an author and educator, I tell my students and the students I meet at school visits when you open up a book, you open up the world. I was given this gift early on and my job is to pay it forward!


For more information about Kids Read Now, contact us.

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By Stephanie Johnson | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Games | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Results | Social Emotional Learning | Summer Reading | April 9, 2021

Using children’s stories to bolster a sense of community connectedness and improve the culture at your school

Imagine this… You are a classroom teacher or a counselor or a principal. You see and feel the culture of your learning community and note the need for a change. It is 2021 and people from all walks of life are facing truly challenging situations in their lives. They haven’t seen family for several months. They have lost jobs and are struggling financially. They’ve spent unparalleled amounts of time at home with their spouses; and some realize that they are not as compatible as they once were.

These are just a few of the real-world situations our families and children are facing. The children who walk into our schools have no control over any of these situations; yet they certainly feel the brunt of them. You, as their sensitive, empathetic teacher, counselor or principal, are put in a position to manage and navigate these overwhelming challenges. What do you do to make a difference? How do you support the children, meeting them where they are; yet still offering assistance to move them forward in their journeys?

As I have in so many times in my life, I have turned to stories; parallel stories which are relevant to the situations we are facing. Let me share a story here… lol. My daughter-in-law is pregnant with twins that are due in June/July. This past weekend, we had her baby shower. One of the “games” we played was taking a word or phrase from a list and sharing tips for the mother-to-be. My daughter, who is not yet a mother, shared her experience as a little girl. She used the words “cuddle” and “bedtime.” She, with so much love in her heart and on her face, shared how much she cherished bedtime cuddles and the stories I used to tell her.

I reminisced right along with her, as her memory took me 18 years back in time; as if we had stepped into a time machine! I shared that the stories I would tell were a mixture of books that I read repeatedly and stories I created which discussed what had happened that day or recently. The stories I would create often highlighted acts she had done which were positive and that we hoped would occur again… things like going potty in the toilet, or playing nicely with her brother. Some of them related to situations which didn’t go so well but in the story the actions were adjusted to elicit more productive endings.

One such story was about when she and a friend were playing, and her friend upset her by selecting her favorite doll to play with for the afternoon; a doll which she, herself, wanted to have with her. My daughter went off to play with a different set of toys and left her friend to play dolls by herself. In the story I created, the girls were able to play with the various dolls and get along by showing off the doll’s various talents.

We talked about how her favorite doll was special and desired, because it was her favorite; and when her friend chose to play with that special doll, it was like sharing a gift which didn’t actually need to be given away. Her special doll was not only special to her, but also special to her friends, which made her that much more special. We didn’t discuss the story as it related to her; it was simply told to her.

The beauty was when my daughter’s friend came over again and a similar situation occurred and played out just as had been shared in my story. My daughter had listened and internalized the actions of the “fictitious” characters and mimicked their behaviors and attitudes and enjoyed her friend’s presence much more. She wasn’t hurt by not being able to play with her favorite toys. She, instead, felt pleasure in sharing her treasured gifts with those whom she loved.

While playing the baby shower game, my daughter didn’t share any of the details I just laid out; but they all came flooding back to my mind when she mentioned her love of those times. I felt that closeness and connection, as well. (Yes, there were tears shed.) I also felt the evening stories were probably one of the best parts of my own parenting. The “aha” moment happened when I realized I had intuitively taken the practice into my work in schools. I had used children’s books with my junior-high and high-school students and with my various staff to share messages. So, when I was named principal at an elementary school, I was excited to expand this work to impact students (and adults) individually and for our school family, as a whole!

The first year in the position, it was clear to me there had been some adversarial relationships created which resulted in a culture of unhealthy competition and some underlying fear and distrust. During an assembly with the students, I mentioned I saw Cookson as the school with a K in the middle of its name and that K stood for Kindness! I read the book The Dot by Peter H Reynolds. The book exemplifies kindness and how it is shared with one another; and the incredibly positive impact it has on the direct recipients and eventually the overall community.

At our school, we created multiple opportunities for our students to share their kindness with one another, with their teachers, with our community members and beyond. (Our teachers also engaged in several appreciation opportunities. Our school counselor and media specialist met together to design and implement a monthly talk with each of our classes where various success attributes and facets of kindness would be discussed and highlighted. We will talk more about these books-stories at a later time). The stories they read, the situations they shared, the questions they asked, and the discussions which ensued have led to a really open and honest community of people who accept where they are, own their actions, work towards growth, and are connected by the focus on being kind to oneself and others.

In January of 2021, when we returned to school after the winter holidays, I anticipated a rejuvenated and refreshed feel. However, after the first day, the look of exhaustion on the faces of staff and students returned. I was thinking, “We have an entire six months of school left, and so much learning to do and the cold, dark winter to somehow endure. The COVID-19 numbers are at an all-time high. How can we possibly do this?” We needed stories; we needed really good children’s literature!

On the announcements, I read The Dot. I asked the students to picture the pages in their minds as I read aloud. I encouraged them to make a movie of the story; especially since many of them have heard it so many times already. We began sharing stories on a weekly basis which had specific messages – kindness, endurance, perseverance, owning your actions, etc. This re-connected our community. We now all had a similar weekly experience to reference in discussions. Just as in other years, teachers were heard referencing the stories in their classrooms; students had characters to relate to and use in discussions with fellow students. We had re-built a very important structure which is critical to our school’s culture.

During the shutdown, we did so many virtual read-alouds. Teachers have been reading in their individual classrooms. However, as a school, it didn’t occur to me that I should be doing this. (Wow, I find I have to learn some of the most basic lessons over and over again!) In a time when we are struggling to connect on so many levels and when we are oftentimes ready to totally cancel out what we don’t like, focusing on the simple messages found in children’s books is exactly the right medicine for what is ailing and alienating us.


For more information about the Kids Read Now Summer Reading Program for K-3, please contact us.

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