How can we develop literacy leaders so they are equipped with the research and preparation necessary to take on global literacy challenges?
What skills and resources are needed to build literacy leadership among educators and practitioners, both in industrialized nations and in developing countries?
How do we support literacy champions in producing improved learning outcomes?
These are broad questions, ones not easily answered within the space of a blog post. But let's get this discussion started at least. I offer a couple of suggestions that I think would be beneficial as a new generation of literacy leaders take up the challenge of creating lifelong readers and learners (and those are the learning outcomes I find to be essential).
1. Let us not forget our ancestors, please. Look at the annals of the IRA conferences and their Reading Hall of Fame. Remember the contributions of those leaders who fought the fight against baseless and against "balanced literacy" and "phonics only.Take a look at some of our past Literacy Leaders here: http://www.readinghalloffame.org.
2. Let us not forget those Literacy Leaders in our own professional development. When I read Nancie Atwell's IN THE MIDDLE I knew I was not alone as I fought against a scipted curriculum that saw kids move from 6 weeks of grammar packets to 6 weeks of literature packets (using the anthology only) to 6 weeks of writing packets. Lucy Calkins' LESSONS FROM A CHILD reinforced the middle school emphasis on the child and not on the content. I taught kids and not ELA. Coursework with Dick Abrahamsson brought me to a deeper understanding of YA literature and children's literature and how they could be a means to motivate kids to read.
3. Let us seek out other literacy leaders that surround us. This past week I had the absolute joy of attending two lectures. One was by noted YA scholar, Michael Cart. I was sitting rapt, with goosebumps, as he talked about the history of our field, as he spoke of the battles we still face. The other lecture was about the life and work of Ezra Jack Keats. Again, I was amazed at what I did NOT know and how this new knowledge would enrich and deepen my teaching. I also count folks like Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle and Kylene Beers in with this group of incredibly smart people who inform my teaching.
How can we support the past, present, and future leaders of literacy? I think we do this best by reading their publications, by attending conferences where they are presenting, and by buying their books. AND, I think it is of prime importance to encourage those thinkers we work with in our profession to reach broader audiences. Encourage them to submit proposals to conferences, offer to work with them on presentations. Introduce them to some of your literacy leaders. Tell them they have a voice that needs to be shared.
Dick Abrahamson told me to write, to publish. He sent me calls for manuscripts and column editors. I got my start with the publication of MAKING THE MATCH because Janet Allen told me (and her publisher I suspect) that I had something to say. She then encouraged me to write and even gave me some pointers about getting started. Other literacy leaders have been instrumental in helping me use my voice. Now, I hope that I will be able to help someone else find that voice and put it to good use.
We often talk about "preaching to the choir." But, you know something? If our voice blends with the voices of the choir, imagine the clarion calls. Imagine how powerful our voices, raised in song, can be. Imagine that choir growing and growing and growing until we are an indomitable chorus we could be.