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…


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! 

Author: Jarred Amato

High school English teacher who is passionate about improving TN education, one book at a time.

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