13 ways educators can transform literacy

Thanks to Education Dive for publishing this op-ed: 13 ways educators can transform literacy.

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Project LIT Community is…

Yesterday we shared advice and inspiration from our incredible chapter leaders. Today we’ll share what Project LIT Community means to our family of educators.

In our winter survey, we asked chapter leaders to finish the sentence: “Project LIT Community…” and here’s what everyone had to say…

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  • has absolutely changed me as a teacher, mom, and person.
  • is door-opening, life-changing, thought-provoking, resource-full, supportive.
  • is an amazing resource enriching the student experience with diverse books!
  • has helped me meet so many students I would not have met outside of my own classroom.
  • is the best most supportive book project.
  • is a great way to bring a community together around wonderful literature.
  • is the PERFECT way to get students to read!
  • has been great for our HS students this year.
  • is just getting started!
  • has not only opened my mind to relevant issues that teens experience, but it has also given teens a way to discuss those issues.
  • has been exactly what I’ve been looking for in a book club for our middle school students.
  • is one of the best things that will happen for my school and community.
  • is my new favorite thing and has remotivated my teaching passion in year 25 of my career.
  • has provided a project with meaning for my readers to get excited about!
  • is fulfilling!
  • is transforming literacy engagement.
  • is going to feel like a Renaissance in my professional life.
  • is and will continue to sweep the country. It’s our response to the attacks on student choice in reading; the overwhelming whiteness, maleness, and cisheteronormativity in the canon; and the lack of love for reading.
  • has been the single best addition to my classroom in recent years.
  • is inspiring!
  • is inspiring so many to build a community of readers!
  • is changing lives by changing the books students read in school.
  • is a one of a kind experience where something as simple as reading can mean something magical, inspiring, and life-changing!
  • has opened the door to new authors and new ways of thinking.
  • makes a difference while connecting readers.
  • energizes kids as readers!
  • allows adults and children to bond over shared interests and conversations around literature.
  • is necessary to support literacy efforts in the United States, especially in under served communities.
  • is such an open, inviting and helpful community of educators and readers.
  • has been the answer to my problem of engaging ALL students in reading!!
  • has been my something beautiful this school year. It’s helped to renew my passion and purpose for the work we do as educators.
  • gives students’ a voice.
  • is an important step in transforming test driven schools.
  • pushes me to be a better teacher.
  • is welcoming and rejuvenating!
  • f***ing inspires me.
  • is helping to drive our literacy efforts with it’s great titles and support from other chapter leaders.
  • gives me the fuel I need to keep doing what I know must be done to get kids interested in reading relevant texts.
  • is an amazing opportunity to connect students with the books they deserve to see themselves in.
  • …is a literary movement needed for all students.
  • has opened up a new world of culturally relevant reading!
  • opens doors for kids.
  • is family.
  • is creating readers who are thinkers!
  • is an incredible group of people who truly love to read quality books and want to do the best for our children.
  • is my mission in 2019.
  • is an amazing project, and it is definitely something that fits within the curriculum of an IB school.
  • is an amazing experience for your school to increase and cultivate a culture of literacy in your school.
  • is a powerful opportunity for building community and a culture of reading/literacy in your school/classroom!
  • is an amazing family of students and educators who will change the world one book at a time.
  • has pushed me to introduce awesome books to students!
  • energizes me to do the hard work of showing up for students!
  • has made me a better educator, librarian, and person.
  • will help you learn something new each time you engage.
  • …is supportive, empowering, and joyful.
  • is a great way for kids to see themselves in the pages. It provides an authentic voice in literature for kids to connect with and find pleasure in reading.
  • gets kids who are reluctant readers, wanting to read books and finish them!
  • gets students excited about reading!
  • encourages students to be vocal about reading and creates a community of readers within your school.
  • is helping my students love reading again!
  • changes students’ lives and increases their joy of reading.
  • helps people connect with their community and see beyond.
  • is reviving independent reading at our school.
  • activates readers!
  • ROCKS!
  • brings students together.
  • has brought engaging, relevant, diverse selections to my students.
  • is my edu family, my people.
  • has given me a community of educators that encourage and motivate me to be the best version of myself that I can be for my kids.
  • is the heartbeat of our classroom.
  • has allowed me to connect with students on a completely different level and opened up a whole world via the books.
  • is a progressive, fun, supportive, and warm community.
  • is changing literacy in America.
  • is giving my students the opportunity to show their communities that student voices are powerful and will make our world a better place.
  • is an awesome leadership experience for our students…and teachers!
  • is the book club we need!
  • promotes the love of reading and the importance of social justice.
  • is going to be awesome!
  • gets students excited about reading and shows teachers and admin that even the most unlikely student can become a reader.
  • is my new home!
  • is a great opportunity for students to have a voice and learn that their voice matters.
  • is one of the best educational movements that has occurred in a long time.
  • is helping my students feel seen and creating avid readers.
  • is the bomb. Period.
  • makes book clubs cool for youth!
  • is just amazing – supportive, intelligent, and student-centered. I’m happy I found it.
  • is life-changing!
  • is an epic literacy movement that takes you and your students to a whole new level of experiencing Literacy in a global perspective of all walks of life. In other words your students will see themselves in literature like they have never seen in their lives before but at the same time students get a view of others which ultimately teaches our youth tolerance and understanding of others
  • supports my mission of creating a more inclusive literacy culture in our district and community.
  • grows readers.
  • is expanding bookshelves and minds, one chapter at a time.
  • is empowering our students to change the world!
  • puts students in control of what they read and share.
  • ROCKS! We’re a group of passionate readers, dedicated to giving every student a chance to read amazing, diverse books.
  • is a great way to get to know diverse books and to get to know each other while supporting the community.
  • is how it happens!

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Happy New Year — Advice for Project LIT Chapter Leaders

Happy New Year, everyone! If you’re planning to launch a Project LIT chapter in 2019, see below for advice and inspiration from our community. (And thanks again to all of the educators who completed our winter survey!)

What advice would you offer a new Project LIT chapter leader? 

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  • Just ASK people to help – you’ll be surprised how YOUR passion excites others!
  • Take your time. Don’t feel the need to rush.
  • Passion, persistence, patience!
  • Don’t give up! Keep reading and keep putting books in students’ hands.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Start as small or as slowly as you need to.  Allow your chapter to naturally define itself by its membership.  If you’re felling called to do it, just do it. It is totally worth it.
  • Just have fun with it!
  • Ask for help! You do NOT have to do it alone. In fact, you shouldn’t. And don’t worry about starting out small. Yes, there are chapters out there doing a book club a month. They’ve been doing it for longer than you have. This community is locally focused. You do what’s best for you, your school, your students, and your community at that particular time. Remember that it’s all focused on the kids. Keep them at the center of everything, and you’ll always have a great guiding point.
  • Share, share, share, what you are reading with your kids, your parents, and your community. And read what your kids are reading!
  • Get kids involved in book selection and communicate with teachers on books, events and goals.
  • It’s not the amount of people who show up. It’s just about getting more students to be reading relevant text. That’s all that matters.
  • Go slow to go fast but just go!
  • It’s important to let the students decide which books to read next.
  • Just do it.  SO much support from other chapters.
  • It comes easily once you start. Learn from your first event and grow from there.
  • Persevere, and be prepared in some cases, to support the book choices.  Read the books you assign so that you can see what is appropriate or inappropriate for the grade you assign the books to.  Have fun!
  • Don’t focus on the size of the group. It’s the quality of the work and once the students become invested the club will take on a life of its own.
  • Get kids excited about the books by reading them first yourself.
  • Take the time to teach your kids how to lead.  Eventually they’ll be able to take on a lot of the work.  It’s great to watch their skills grow in this way and keeps you from burning out.  Seek multiple funding options.  Talk to your leadership about title one funding and other avenues.
  • Take your time and remember to breathe. Don’t get discouraged when you get a negative response from your higher ups or the community, because it will happen. Instead, focus on the positive feedback and the feeling you get when students who are non-readers get excited about reading a book. The students are what it’s all about, nothing else matters.
  • Get started, what are you waiting for?
  • Start small.
  • Just do it! Reading these books and talking about them with young people has been a joy this school year.
  • Love books. Read them deeply. Treat them with respect and dignity. Kids will do the same. Dive in. There are way too many reasons NOT to try something new, but the truth is people love amazing stories and will gather in community around them. Give your kids that chance – they deserve it.
  • Ask your community for help. Our Amazon wish list has been fully funded by the community.
  • Just do it, I mean, just READ it!!!
  • The more energy you spread, the better!
  • Enthusiasm is contagious!
  • My advice would be take small steps and it will all come together!
  • Even if you only impact one student, that student matters.
  • Start small, have fun!
  • Love reading! Have fun! Have help 🙂
  • Don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed about what you think success should look like! This will look different in every school building based on the students and your unique circumstances. Be flexible and persistent 🙂
  • Do what you can as all steps are progress.
  • Enjoy the ride! It is more rewarding for you.
  • Learn from those seasoned Project Lit chapters, seek ways to involve caring and compassionate adults.
  • Just stick with it and the excitement from the students and staff in it will catch-on to the other staff and students.
  • We know that what we are doing is the best for our kids. Don’t be discouraged enough to give up because you’re not getting support within your building. The kids need us.
  • Lean on the amazing community of educators that are doing this work! Don’t overthink things -just get started. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated…
  • Go to your local public library and ask the YA librarian to get you multiple copies of the book and invite him/her to join you for your discussion.
  • Start out small. Reach out for help. Don’t stop trying.
  • Recruit fellow educators who are just as passionate about relevant literature to help you.  Talk up the books!  Personally invite kids you know that like to read or who don’t but you think would be interested in these awesome books.
  • Even if you start small it is worth it. I just have 10 8th grade girls and it has been a great experience for all of us.
  • Find a good support person or volunteers to help spread the work out if you can. It helps if you have someone who can be the hype person as well as a logistical person so the wealth can be shared.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Kids will catch on and then reading will spread like wildfire!
  • Even if it is small–keep going!
  • Take your time!  We have tried to squeeze in a lot and everything ends up half done.
  • Take it easy.  Follow the hashtag!
  • Reach out to your Project Lit family for support and encouragement
  • Have fun with it, try and have a clear purpose for what you are doing
  • Let it come together naturally! It’s okay if things begin slowly as long as the students are leading the way!
  • Spend time reading the list ahead of time as much as possible.
  • Jump in! Start with just a few students and watch it grow!
  • Don’t be afraid to start. Allow kids choice and voice in the process.
  • Although I am just getting started at my school, I have learned so much following different leaders and chapters on social media.  It has also been beneficial visiting local chapters in the Nashville community.
  • Just Do It (I mean, Just Read It :))
  • If you don’t ask, you never know.  I would have never dreamed my district would have fully funded our chapter.  TItle I funds are ideal for the goals of ProjectLIT.
  • Stay strong, have fun with it, reach out to other leaders.
  • Electronic communication and collaboration with the students has been key for me with my two schools. We are using Slack and it’s going well so far.
  • Create student leaders by creating different activity committees in the chapter.
  • Find a few partners. I love collaborating with the other librarians who are leading chapters and learning from the teachers who are engaging entire classes.
  • Don’t stop. Get it. Get it.
  • Be patient. Great things will come.
  • Take time at the beginning to have a general game plan and ask students to help you along the way.
  • Never underestimate your students and most importantly don’t be afraid of challenged novels.  Just read it and you won’t regret it.
  • Like many things in life, temper your expectations. Realize that your vision of the rocking book club with 20 kids on the wait-list and super-lit parties doesn’t happen overnight. Having said that, don’t be too careful or obsessive with the details. I’ve learned so much through trial and error, then asking kids for THEIR feedback.
  • The potential for district and community outreach/education is incredible.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re a leader; you’re my hero.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to be a risk-taker and think outside of the box with your book club ideas. Follow other chapter leaders on Twitter.
  • Don’t be afraid to start small!  A small but passionate group can be great.
  • Connect with an ambitious chapter leader who will share ideas with you
  • Keep at it!  it will fall into place when the time is right
  • The community—Twitter, Facebook and Padlet—are gold.

3 Steps to joining Project LIT flyer

What If…?

Earlier today, I received the inaugural Inspiring Educator Award on behalf of Project LIT Community. Thanks to the generosity of the Nashville Public Education Foundation and Ingram Charities, we will be able to do even more to empower our young people as readers and leaders.

I also wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported our work over the past two-plus years, especially our students. Not just the incredible founders at Maplewood High School, but the dedicated students across the country who have embraced Project LIT Community and launched badass chapters of their own. YOU are the reason that I remain so hopeful about our future!

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Our educators. Now than 500 strong. Thank you for taking a chance on this grassroots movement and fighting the good fight every day. Grateful for all of you, especially those who filled out that Google Form in the summer of 2017! It’s been so much fun to read and learn and grow together. It’s not always easy, but it’s absolutely worth it, and we’re just getting started!

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Our community supporters and volunteers. Thank you to all of you who continue to attend our book clubs, support our Donors Choose campaigns, join in on our social media conversations, and advocate on behalf of our students and educators. We couldn’t do this without you!

And I could go on…there are so many kind, generous people out there who continue to support our community in big and small ways. It all adds up, and it’s all appreciated!

Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to share part of a speech that I recently wrote and presented at Fortify 2018. I believe there’s a video coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s what I have would have the asked the room of 900 Nashvillians (all big supporters of public education) this morning…

WHAT IF?

Our movement now includes more than 500 Project LIT chapters across 44 states. Public. Private. Urban. Rural. Elementary through high school. Unified by our belief that our Project LIT books have the power to change lives.

Our chapter leaders face many of the same challenges.

“Sorry, there’s no room in the budget.”

“Or in the curriculum.”

“Why are you reading those books?”

“Yeah that sounds great, but what about the classics?”

Despite these challenges, our Project LIT leaders refuse to accept the status quo. We refuse to do things the way they’ve always been done. We refuse to give into the negativity.

Instead, we find ways to make it happen. To block out the noise and do what’s best for our students. To dream big. To ask…what if?

What if…we ensured that every child had an opportunity to read for at least 20 minutes every day?

What if…we invested in inclusive libraries that affirmed and valued all students?

What if…we gave all students choice in what they read?

What if…all students could see themselves in books?

What if…we celebrated and cheered on readers the same way we champion our athletes?

What if…we flooded ALL schools & communities with great books?

What if…we truly trusted and empowered our teachers? Our students?

What if…we stopped policing kids’ reading?

What if…we admitted that the traditional English model, running back the same texts and the same essays and the same units year after year, is easier and cheaper and safer, but not always better?

What if…we all stopped to reflect, “What’s it like being a student in my class?”

What if…we stopped telling kids that they shouldn’t be reading those books? And stopped telling teachers that they shouldn’t be teaching those books?

What if…we acknowledged that just because a certain book “worked” for you, or for me, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be read by ALL?

What if…we stopped trying to make English class so boring?

What if…we defended our students as passionately as we defended the “classics”?

What if…we recognized that a text is not rigorous if no one reads it?

What if…we made room, and I mean real room, for new and important texts in our curriculum?

What if…every school made their love of reading visible to students and families?

What if…we committed to giving children so much access & choice & time & love & support that they all said, “Yeah, I’m a reader!”

What if…we recognized that there is no silver bullet out there, no scripted curriculum or computer program, that will turn a non-reader into a proficient one?

What if…we listened to our teachers? To our young people?

What if…all children, K-12, received a brand new book of their choice every single month?

What if…we just got out of the way and let our young people lead?

What if…the books on our shelves were as diverse as the students in our classrooms?

And what if…teachers didn’t have to buy those books?!

What if…we provided our students with as many positive literacy experiences as possible?

What if…we all demanded something different, something better for all of our children?

What if…we all worked together to make our communities LIT, one book and one conversation at a time?

What if…?

Thank you!

how to support project lit flyer

Please reach out projectlitcommunity@gmail.com if you would like to learn more about our movement. You can also follow us on social media (Twitter and Facebook) at @projectlitcomm! 

Complete recap of Project LIT Summit

Over the past two weeks, we’ve shared highlights from our inaugural Project LIT Summit. See below for links to all of our coverage, and thanks again to everyone for your feedback and support of our community! We can’t wait to do it again next year.

Project LIT Summit Survey

The inaugural Project LIT Summit…

Thank you, Kwame Alexander

Thank you, Tiffany Jackson

Thank you, Nic Stone

Thank you, Jeff Zentner

Next Steps and Improvements

Glows and Grows

Highlights and Takeaways

Student Reflection and Nic Stone Introduction

Student Welcome Address — Project LIT Journey

Student Introductions, including Kwame Alexander poem

The inaugural Project LIT Summit…

We asked attendees to finish this sentence: The inaugural Project LIT Summit…

  • was the start of something special!
  • Everythang! No seriously, it was the best PD I’ve attended in my short teaching career. In Project LIT I can say with certainty I’ve found my people.
  • Was inspiring and encouraging.
  • Was full of passionate educators and students who want to make a difference in the world. Dream big!
  • Was an inspiring way to begin my summer!
  • was a celebration of literature, learning, and love! A family reunion that allowed us to feel the joy and support of the community, but also challenged us in ways that will help us reflect and grow.
  • Was a rare opportunity for me, As an educator, to network with genuine people about changing lives outside of a mandated district setting and talk removed from standardized testing.
  • was an inspiring, educational, and invigorating event that I hope spreads to all 50 states!
  • Filled my soul with positivity, student-centered ideas, and literature-love.
  • was the greatest and I’m proud and grateful that I was able to attend.
  • best PD and networking experience of like-minded educators AND students
  • was the most LIT professional development I’ve ever attended. The energy in Maplewood undoubtedly cannot be recreated.
  • Has inspired me to become a better teacher and fight to put diverse literature in all students’ hands.

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  • Was amazing, inspiring, and a true highlight of my students’ high school experience (and one of the highlights of mine as an educator)
  • Fabulous
  • is evidence of a MOVEMENT for literacy, equity, and kids.
  • Was Epic!
  • helped me better define my goals for my students as readers.
  • was LIT! I’m so proud I got to be part of it!
  • an inspirational, motivating, book-loving kind of day for teachers and students!
  • Was LIT! (Just as I suspected it would be!). The connections I have made with educators has deepened and will help me grow as a teacher and person.
  • was inspiring!
  • was more than I could have imagined! THANK YOU for providing a like-minded group of people across the US that are truly here for the best interest in our future children, inspiring one another tthrough beautiful literature to be better everyday.
  • has ignited my passion for bringing literature to young people.
  • made me fired up to start my community.
  • strengthened the resolve and bonds of our community.
  • Reaffirmed my belief that all students should have access to books that represent their lived experience.
  • was everything I wanted it to be and everything I didn’t know I wanted it to be. It’s just the beginning.
  • Was fire!
  • made me feel like I’m not alone in wanting my students to read a variety of literature. Thank you!!
  • was everything I wanted it to be and so much more!

Nikki

Thank you, Jeff Zentner

One of the highlights of inaugural Project LIT Summit was the accessibility and awesomeness of our authors: Kwame Alexander, Tiffany Jackson, Nic Stone, and Jeff Zentner.

Here’s what our attendees wanted to share with Jeff, author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days. His third book, Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee, is coming in 2019!

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Jeff, thank you for…

  • Spending time with us and allowing us to learn from you.
  • Travis, for breaking my heart and putting it back together again, and for the way you write about the south in all its glorious imperfection.
  • Being real
  • talking about rewriting what it means to be American. It makes me realize that we all have a part in this.
  • Your empathy and candor. You get what we are trying to do, create more empathetic and caring human beings.  Your stories are helping us get there.
  • shedding a different light on the event with your male perspective. I can’t wait to read Serpent King!
  • Being SO supportive of this community and for being a part of this amazing day!!
  • being there and writing awesome books!
  • talking about the usefulness of the phone in the writing process.
  • Supporting our students and the work of this movement. Thanks you for sharing stories that our Nashville youth can see themselves in.
  • Writing such thought-provoking stories, speaking so eloquently, and being such a nice person.
  • Speaking at the summit and connecting with everyone! My students love your books and were excited to get to meet another author!
  • writing for teens – you are definitely bringing your art to your audience (adults, too). Thank you for not shying away from issues of white supremacy, racism, abuse, poverty, grief, and oppression in your books and writing characters who are indelibly imprinted on our hearts.
  • Writing about a place I know
  • Dill, Lydia, & Travis. Eventual lovers of life and going for their dreams.
  • being part of our day!
  • Time and your enthusiasm.
  • Your stories!
  • being a writer on top of your many other responsibilities!
  • being so personable. You are so talented and treated each of us very respectfully and gave each of us quality time, making us feel so comfortable and inspired to write on our own.
  • literary contributions to YA literature.
  • Your humor and your mad writing skills.
  • Your humor, and writing important stories that students will cherish for years to come.
  • being awesome and for writing great books for our kids!
  • your commitment to teenagers.
  • Talking about revision
  • your thoughtful and considered dialogue. Your wit and humanity are also very welcome.
  • being an amazing human being and wonderful writer!

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