Untold story in education today
One of the untold stories of education today I would say is about the teachers who struggle daily, and changing conditions from the students we serve to the materials that we have in our classrooms to just the realities of the everyday to make learning happen in those days that we have with children and families.
There's a big interest I think in the heroism, heroism of teachers, and often it gets overlooked that that heroism is daily, and involves many children of many backgrounds where learning is already happening in their homes. But in the classroom we need to make use of what they know, and complement it with our expertise and care.
Siblings and literacy
When I think about literacy and connecting those actors who make learning happen, and all the literacies that we value, I really see at the beginning three parts, or three special groups.
And those include parents, siblings, and teachers. We often overlook siblings, but siblings are so instrumental, I think, in showing young people and adults how literacy looks, how we do literacy, and maybe not even calling it literacy, but enjoying texting, regardless if it's a complete sentence or not, it's a start.
Opening a book, whether in a digital format or in print, all of those forms involve language, cultures. And if we change, I think, our perception of words and how we use them, it can really open I think more doors so that parents, siblings, extended family members and teachers are all working together in that social transaction and network that equals literacies.
And when I speak of literacies, I really think of it in the plural. That we're doing a lot that ranges from, I guess I'll go through the alphabet, from listening, memorizing, noticing, observing, performing, questioning, reading, speaking, thinking slash meta cognition. You, that's the actual literate being. Viewing and writing. All of those equal, I believe, multi-literacies or the plural literacies.
Día and the treasures at the library
I'm a big fan of the work by Pat Mora. And I learned about "El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros" through her advocacy as a literacy scholar, writer, and thinker. And some of her books are directly about the value of literacy, cultures, languages in U.S. homes.
When the program was first launched she shared her big commitment to children and families, and she borrowed from a few countries how they celebrate the child, how they celebrate storytelling, and the making of culture every day.
And she borrowed from Hans Christian Andersen and Mexico and many Central American and South American countries who celebrate the Day of the Child, the Day of Literature. And as a result that day is April 30th, El día del niño/El día de libro. And we, we teachers, writers, readers came together in support of her vision of every day, many books, many languages, many children, many families, every day.
And we link families to books in all forms, and it culminates with this day, April 30th. The challenge, I think, has been to keep that momentum daily, especially in a time that challenges the existence of libraries as we know them, public libraries, our home libraries, and even libraries that are in schools. So public libraries, school libraries, home libraries - those three that are really the treasures of knowledge, imagination, and creativity.
Impact of Día
So I believe that El día de los niños/El día de los libros contributes to the conversation on literacy by advancing how we define literacy, how we define a family, and also how we define and engage those actors, those persons committed to learning and literacies.
What I've noticed the most is that it's really an effort of cooperation and collaboration. And we often talk about those two words, adopt them, even the word partnership. But it's really seeing it and feeling it in action and that it is leading to results. I think that's the drive.
And when we meet the people who work with children, and their heart is open, their mind is open, and even how they're defining classic and contemporary literature, it really defines who will stay at the table, who will remain in the dialogue, and is it truly an engaged labor that creates this idea that literacy is a network?
And scholars have described it as, as — reading as a transaction, such as Louise Rosenblatt. But we're finding that it's those networks as well that we build and maintain over time. And I think El día de los niños/ El día de los libros, Children's Day/Book Day is about people.
Access to diverse books
Access to diverse books happens through programs, through initiatives such as El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children's day/Book day that flanks additional programs such as the African American Read-In, the recent campaign that has gained the most momentum and that is We Need Diverse Books. This is a diverse America, United States from, whenever we - whichever date we identify as the beginning of America to the present, we're all interconnected, interdependent.
Another program that I think really advances the work that we share for literacy across cultures, languages includes First Book and their campaigns.
And local public libraries that have storytelling, that have a diverse collection of books for all children regardless of their population or zip code, it reflects American children, newcomer children, but all children who want to see themselves on the print page or the digital page.
And their families that we are funny looking, that we're humorous, that we have challenges, that we have surprises, and that people love us.
We Need Diverse Books_Rodriguez
We need diverse books because every child matters in person, on the page, and within his home or her home.
NCTE: A reservoir of energy
Our NCTE president of the National Council of Teachers of English yesterday he said, "NCTE is you." And President Ernest Morel reminded us that we are the organization, that we are the driving force and energy.
I'm a member because I value languages, literatures, and cultures. And I believe that words, ideas, and concepts can really help young people and adults value literacy throughout their lifetime. So as a result I'm really committed to the organization and its values, and the members who reach masses of students, of young adult learners, families across the country, and also international perspectives that we gain from our members.
I think the greatest feeling of joy that I gain from the organization comes every year when I attend the convention or a local affiliate in Texas or in my home city that gives me so much energy that carries me for the next 11 or 12 months as a teacher, as a learner, as a reader, as a thinker that I don't often gain in other organizations that have other priorities.
But ours is a commitment to all literacies. And that is a source of energy that I maintain I think throughout the year and when we meet again, it's just a reservoir of energy that I maintain.
Preparing teachers for classrooms
We're preparing teachers for today and tomorrow to work with children and families of diverse backgrounds, interests, concerns by really bringing society, American society into our classrooms.
I think for a long time we were probably filling those CPUs or our brains with a lot of knowledge and we really weren't paying more attention to the strengths that young people, young adults, adult learners brought to our classroom.
And I think today what we're doing is making use of that prior knowledge, that background knowledge that all learners bring to our classroom and how can we complement that as teachers, how can we engage these learners to learn not only in our classroom but beyond and to bring that learning into our classroom that welcomes what they know within the school independent of the institution or school, and how that's helping form ideas, a sense of justice, a sense of commitment, and responsibility for the world that we want today, and that we imagine tomorrow.
Overall I think that young people really want to be part of a story, of an idea, and that their involvement with literacies brings hope and change for all of us.
Colorín Colorado anniversary
Happy birthday Colorín Colorado.
Este cuento no se ha acabado y sigue. ¡Ayúdanos a escribir este cuento!
Translation: This story hasn't ended and it goes on. Help us to write this story!
Dr. R. Joseph Rodríguez is an Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso. Joseph has taught English and Spanish language arts and held a variety of positions in public schools and higher education. His literacy and education research focuses on culturally responsive teaching and socially responsible literacies. He is also interested in how students use their Spanish heritage language to make meaning and form identities through diverse literacies across the disciplines and with learning technologies. Additional research interests include academic writing, multimodal literacies, and young adult literatures.
He is also an advocate for El día de los niños / El día de los libros (Children's Day / Book Day), which is an initiative and daily commitment to link all children, adolescents, and families to books, languages, and cultures.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.