The Gift of Literacy


Part of my role includes the training and coaching of teachers in the implementation of Reading and Writing Workshop. This past week marked the kickoff for cohort 2, and was spent defining “Workshop”, modeling components, and preparing teachers for the first weeks of school. Learning will continue throughout the year, accompanied by weekly coaching meetings.

During the final day of the training, we invited cohort 1 teachers to sit on a panel and share their insights to the flood of questions the new implementors had on their minds. After the panel concluded, a cohort 1 teacher stopped me and shared a “Magical Moment” that she experienced in her own classroom. The workshop framework shifts focus from the content to the child and provides differentiation to move every reader forward! This is her story…

(all names have been changed)

Sarah started 4th grade with a reading level of a 2nd grader. She was identified as a struggling student in kindergarten and had an IEP which outlined support in the areas of literacy. As a teacher new to workshop, Ms. F was unaware of the profound impact her classroom would have on Sarah.

Sarah’s love for reading blossomed through intentional instruction, scaffolded application, and reader’s choice in the classroom. At an “Open House” a few months after the start of school, Ms. F met Sarah’s mom and was eager to share her growth. Ellen, Sarah’s mom who had a 3rd grade reading level herself, spoke about the changes she saw in Sarah at home. “She was always reading or had a book in her hand.” Ellen was pleased with her daughter’s progress and the teaching of Ms. F.

At Christmas break, Ms. F bumped into Sarah and her mother at the supermarket. After a brief conversation with Sarah about the series she was currently reading, Ellen shared with Ms. F that “We” had been reading over Christmas break together, and that every night, “We” would talk about our books.

At the end of 4th grade, Sarah had the reading level of a 3rd grader and was on her way to closing the large gap that was once there. Ms F, Sarah, and the rest of the students ended the year celebrating their favorite books and sharing their most prized writing with classmates, parents, and others.

During the summer, Ms. F again ran into Sarah and her mother in the supermarket. Ellen spoke to Ms. F about Sarah’s growth in reading and her new goal of entering the 5th grade at the 4th grade reading level. She then quietly continued to share her own personal goal. She had always wanted to read the Little House on the Prairie series and was already on book three. And although she found the next book more challenging, she had set a goal for herself and planned to meet it before Sarah started back to school in the summer!  


As the teacher finished sharing this moving story, we both stood with tears in our eyes and I had goosebumps on my arms. Not only was Ms. F able to impact the life of a child, providing a new path in life, one filled with opportunities and the tools necessary to be a literate student and adult; but this gift, the gift of literacy, opened new doors of learning and understanding for Ellen as well, and perhaps, breaking the cycle that accompanies illiteracy!

One of the most powerful gifts we can give our students is the gift of literacy!

Enjoy your school year!


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