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! 

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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!

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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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Thank you, Nic Stone

If you follow this blog, you know how much Nic Stone means to our community of students and educators. Here’s what our attendees had to say about the Cardi B of YA lit following our inaugural Project LIT Summit.

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Nic Stone, thank you for…

  • being the ultimate Project LIT author ambassador!
  • Being unapologetically yourself. You speak truth to power and your makeup was on fleek.
  • Being so vivacious
  • Being the Cardi B of YA, and for being so real with the students you speak to.
  • Your unfiltered unique take on life and your passion
  • Pointing out the glaring issues with black representation in “the canon.” It was something I knew theoretically but didn’t truly think about until you brought up Crooks, Tom, and Jim.
  • Your unflagging love of students and Project LIT. The kids know you are genuine in your concern for them and they respond in kind.  You are loved!
  • Being extra!
  • for being so real and down to earth. You make me want to write a book of my own.
  • Being the Cardi B of YA Lit! You always show up and you are SO down to earth that I think everyone at the summit left feeling like we had a new best friend! Your warmth, energy, and words are beyond powerful!
  • Everything!
  • being real. Your connection to your readers is evident.
  • Just being you and spreading your unicorn, mermaid magic all over this movement. #CardiBofYALit
  • Being who you are, being so real, being so genuine, championing students, and writing such powerful words.
  • Being the absolute highlight of the summit for my students! They already loved your book but being able to connect with you as a person was HUGE for them.
  • Honesty
  • seeing, really SEEING, the students and making them feel seen, heard, valued, and worthy of talking with an author. You are a huge influence for them – and a postive, powerful, authentic one. I am fan-girling for sure, and I am 54!
  • Challenging my thinking
  • keeping it real, even when we’d like it to not be.
  • your honesty and spending so much time with us! It was such a valuable experience!
  • being you and for making my students feel like the kings & queens of the Universe!
  • Your connection. Your genuineness. Your strive to include everyone.
  • being the Cardi B of YA LIT! #MomLyfe
  • writing such an amazing book and for being so honest and thoughtful.
  • Honesty
  • writing about controversial topics that are frustrating for all to read and witness. Thank you for the good ending.
  • your honesty in your approach to writing and what’s right for kids.
  • your openness as always in caring for the people you write for.
  • Keeping it real with educators.
  • Loving kids so hard. It is one of my favorite things to watch you interact with students for real. You have an Incredible gift for writing, speaking, and sharing yourself with others. Looking forward to sharing that gift wig students for years to come.
  • being fabulous and for writing great books for our kids!
  • your extra self and your stories, which is an extension of your extra self.
  • Your extraness
  • being so real! Your down to earth and frank comments and conversations were awesome.
  • being so rad and so extra! You are a force and so fierce!

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Thank you, Tiffany Jackson

Happy Friday, everyone! Over the past two weeks, we’ve been sharing highlights from our inaugural Project LIT Summit.

Today we wanted to take a moment to show our appreciation for Tiffany D. Jackson, author of two twisty and incredible books, Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming. Here’s what our attendees had to say!

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Tiffany, thank you for…

  • Being YOU and inspiring the entire Project LIT family!
  • Sharing your story and telling the story of girls like my students.
  • Your twisty stories.
  • Your brilliant writing that lingers and makes you come up with all sorts of cockamamie theories!
  • Your presence all day and your kindness
  • Telling students not to be afraid to have conversations with adults that make them sweat.
  • Sharing your talent and being present in the afternoon sessions. You are all in and it shows!
  • Bringing light to stories that go unheard, intentionally.
  • Engaging students with your “twisty” books. They keep them wanting more and realizing that they actually love to read.
  • Writing twisty stories that keep us guessing, and for your honesty about your process and inspiration!
  • Being so twisty!
  • Always promoting ProjectLIT on Twitter
  • Being authentic and sharing how your stories came to be. In some way, it must have been difficult to research and write these novels, and it means a lot that you felt safe enough with our group to share those experiences with us.
  • For writing such a powerful story allegedly, for being so genuine, and continuing to be an upcoming and powerful voice.
  • Being open and honest with the attendees, AND for attending the regional breakout session – it was awesome to me to have one of the authors in our region actually attending the session to get to know us.
  • Being genuine, warm, and brilliant – in person and as an author.
  • Your humor.
  • Mary and Claudia. I believe they will become friends with my students.
  • Being willing to spend the day with us! I’m so excited to share your participating in the 20 Book Challenge with our students!
  • Being so sweet and responsive to kids.
  • Your realness and your love for our students.
  • Making me think about the dreams of my students of immigrant families, and how they are often silenced.
  • Being so thoughtful and kind.
  • Your great character- your real-life, twisting, frustrating stories.
  • Literary creativeness.
  • Your research and honesty that you put into your books.
  • Seeing our kids and your humility in this work despite how much your work KICKS ASS!
  • Being such a beautiful human, whose stories represent my students and lift up their narratives. I’m so grateful for you and your work. Thank you for being so down to earth and humble- you are such a fantastic model for students.
  • Being incredible and for writing great books for our kids!
  • Unapologetically being your badass self and for your stories; you amplify the voices of people who society tries to silence.
  • Not spoiling your plot twist
  • Being so inclusive and accessible.
  • Being awesomely twisty and passionate about giving voice to those who have been silenced!

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Thank You, Kwame Alexander

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been sharing highlights and takeaways from our inaugural Project LIT Summit.

Today we wanted to take a moment to show our appreciation for Kwame Alexander, author of several Project LIT Book Club selections, including The Crossover, Booked, Rebound, and Solo.  Here’s what our attendees had to say!

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Kwame Alexander, thank you for…

  • Changing your summer plans to join us for the FIRST Project LIT Summit!
  • Your insight and thoughtful approach to reach all students.
  • Your passion for reading
  • Writing books that grab young readers by their hearts and refuse to let go.
  • Coming to see us even though it was your vacation.
  • Saying that, “you as a teacher have real power to empower kids…or destroy them.” A good reminder.
  • Improvising a wonderful keynote and for taking the time to talk with everyone. Your support of Project LIT is appreciated!
  • Continuing to Be True to verse.
  • Writing books that speak to ALL students – no matter the race or social class.
  • Giving up time away from your family to be there to support us! You’re a rock star of literature and it means the world to us!
  • Writing your awesome books and being real about the power teachers have to make or break a kid’s feelings of self-worth.
  • Bringing it in flip flops.
  • Your creativity! How many people can create a poetic keynote through a Q&A. You got skills! Also, thank you for taking time out of your vacation to motivate our people.
  • Helping me love verse.
  • Taking the time to provide an inspiring keynote speech!
  • Your passion
  • Coming in flip flops on your vacation and showing that no matter how famous you get, your readers matter.
  • Putting students first!
  • Writing in verse what our students sometimes feel they can’t say.
  • For always responding to me and interacting with my students! They LOVE you! You and your writing has changed my school forever!
  • Your time with us!
  • Keeping it real.
  • Taking time from your vacation to join us!
  • Your verse; your beautiful words; inspiring young hesitant readers to read and live their life to the fullest through your stories. Your books are for everyone, not just athletes. Readers can connect through the metaphors teaching life lessons.
  • Sharing your literary genius with children.
  • Using your influence to grow potential authors
  • Sharing your poems. I especially loved the one about your daughter.
  • Being amazing and for writing great books for our kids!
  • Your spirit, your passion, and your awesomely interactive method of a keynote.
  • Your inspiration!! You may have just been being kind when you asked to read the first page of my book, but it made my day. 🙂
  • Being passionate about putting poetry in the hands of young people!