Monday, July 26, 2021

This Will Be Our Last Post Together

Reading Aloud to Henry Walsh
The little counter that accompanies the analytics page of this blog tells me that this is my 400th post. I have decided that it will be the last. To paraphrase Dr. Pangloss, I make this decision for the best of all possible reasons. I have said what I have to say on the topic of literacy instruction and after nine years out of the classroom, I think it is time for new voices to take up the cause of thoughtful literacy instruction.

I started this blog in earnest after I retired nine years ago to continue the conversation with teachers about literacy instruction that I had begun at the start of my teaching career in 1969. As I wrote, I found I could not avoid commenting on issues related to public education like the Common Core, the education reform movement, charters, vouchers and the like. Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Pelto, Mary Howard, Stu Bloom, Mike Simpson and others started sharing my work and the blog reached a wider audience than I could have ever imagined.  

I am grateful and humbled by this. Over the years, however, new voices have joined the blogosphere with fresh and knowing perspectives. I found that Peter Greene at Curmudgucation did a better job of debunking education reform than I did. Paul Thomas at Radical Eyes for Equity did a better job on social justice issues. Jersey Jazzman did a better job of debunking the myth of charter school excellence. Steven Singer at The Gadfly in the Wall did a better job at righteous indignation. So I decided to stay in my literacy lane, for the most part, the one area I felt I had some real expertise.

As I look back on my literacy writing for this blog over the past few years, I truly feel I have said what I needed to say. It is all out there in cyberspace for those who want it. When I took a year off from writing the blog a while back, I noticed that thousands kept visiting the old posts even without new content. I trust that will continue and I hope teachers and teacher leaders continue to find them useful.

So that's it. I hope all of you will continue the good fight for good literacy instruction. It is a never ending battle, and while I know we will never get it completely right, I know that many of you will continue to passionately pursue the best literacy instruction possible for children. This fight demands knowledge, informed decision making, the will to speak up for the children, the will to take risks in instruction, and the desire to continue to read, write, learn and grow. Keep at it.

I am off on new projects. I have decided in my 75th year of reading, writing, acting, and blathering that the truest, most lasting form of human communication is through story. I plan to spend much of my remaining time writing and telling stories that I hope will resonate with others. If you are a baseball fan, you might be interested in one such story project: my new blog The Faith of a Phillies Fan. It turns out baseball stories are really fun to write. And I will continue to act, just another form of story telling, after all. I get my third shot at playing Shakespeare's Sir Toby Belch in a production of Twelfth Night this fall.

Be well all. Thank you for your passion and readership and feedback and sharing over the years.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The 7th Annual National Give-A-Kid-A-Book-Day is July 6th

Tomorrow, July 6, 2021 is the 7th Annual National Give-A-Kid-A-Book Day (NGKBD). This is the yearly celebration dedicated to getting books into children's hands over the summer. Literacy research has shown that the single best way to extend children's literacy learning beyond the school year is to get books in kids hands. One way to do this is to give books as gifts. The day July 6 is chosen because it is my son's birthday. Every year for the past 44 years, I have given him books for his birthday. This year is no exception. My son is a reader. I believe giving him books helped. 

Participation in National Give-A-Kid-A-Book Day is easy. All you need do is find a child and give that child a book. The child could be your own, a neighbor's child, a student, a grandchild, one of your kid's friends, or children in a homeless shelter. Just give the child a book and say, I thought you might enjoy this." You might want to include a note with the book. This personalizes the gift (and provides another reason to read something). Some participants like to include a lollipop or other small treat with the book to send the message "Reading is sweet," but the most important thing is to give a kid a book.

National Give-A-Kid-A-Book Day is dedicated to the many hard-working people and organizations who have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure that all children have access to books. Toward that end, each year on July 6 we recognize these folks by placing them on the NGKBD Honor Roll. Past inductees have included Luis Soriano, Lisa Wilever, Philadelphia's Words on Wheels, Dolly Parton, Margaret Craig McNamara, M. Jerry Weiss, Joan Kramer, Donalyn Miller, Project Night Night, the Fallsington, Pennsylvania Public Library, and The Children's Book Project of San Francisco. If you wish to know more about these inductees and about their work you can look at past NGKBD posts here, here, here, here, and here

Here are the 2021 inductees.

End Book Deserts - End Book Deserts is an organization that advocates for children who live in poverty areas and lack basic access to age appropriate books and high quality reading materials. End Book Deserts is the brainchild of Dr. Molly Ness. The group has developed a large group of  organizations nationwide that are working to end book deserts and get quality books in kids hands. End Book Deserts will hold its first national conference online this year on August 8-9. For more information you can go to the group's web site here.

Children's Literacy Initiative - For thirty years, his Philadelphia based organization has provided a wide variety of literacy services to teachers, children , and families. Central to their mission is helping kids get access to quality reading material. They provide schools with home lending libraries, independent reading collections, informational text collections, and read aloud collections. You can learn more about this nonprofit organization at their web site here.

Give a kid a book very soon. It will make you feel good; I promise.