Saturday, October 5, 2013

Books Change Lives

Reading is one of my passions but it is not a universal one shared by all. Sometimes, I think how sad it is to not have developed a love for reading; not to have grown up feeling the weight of a book in your hand or the thrill of reading late into the night. 

Books are a uniquely portable magic. 
Stephen King

Indeed, books have magic. They helped me create my own private space and took me to places that I would never have been able to visit. They were the sights and sounds that I might never have heard other than in between the pages. As a child, books provided me with a feeling that I stored in the recesses of my mind for years and then, transferred to my own children. 

Growing up in a house of readers is a different picture than the one painted for many children in America. I remember the cries of children coming to elementary school with no gloves and little warm clothing during very cold snowstorms in upstate New York. There were the junior high students who did not own books and were not passionate about reading; the adolescent boys in the juvenile detention center that longed to know how to read despite their challenging situations. Thinking back on a career filled with struggling readers makes me reflect on the influences teachers have on children's lives. Passion for reading and learning is infectious. 

On Thursday night, in a lovely living room space at Scholastic headquarters in New York City, Laura Robb, nationally known teacher/author, and her son, Evan Robb, principal and author, greeted guests at an evening get together devoted to the power of books and how literacy changes lives. They passionately showcased their philanthropic foundation, Educator2Educator (E2E), whose mission it is to:
  • Provide print and e-books to high poverty school and class libraries from preschool to high school.
  • Develop a professional library for teachers with suggestions for collaborating to learn and improve instruction so teachers can prepare students to meet 21st century needs by developing problem solvers, expert readers and writers, expert users of technology, collaborators, and creative thinkers.

The Robbs spoke of the opportunities reading provides for struggling learners and why they feel so strongly about the place of books in children's hands.  Evan recounted a recent story of a middle school child who desperately wanted a book he saw at the Scholastic Book Fair in his middle school but did not have $7.99 to pay for it. Laura read student letters speaking of the power of reading and learning. Supported by UBS Financial Services and an Advisory Board of notable figures, the night offered pleasant conversations and reflecting time in an environment that highlighted a print-rich environment and the power that reading brings. 

There are so many students living in poverty who have not had the privilege of a book rich home environment.  There are those who have not even been exposed to the public library or if they have do not have opportunities to frequent it. Books change lives. That is a clear message that we heard. "I hated reading in middle school and most of high school. I couldn't read the books. I couldn't write essays or stories. Reading gave me a headache. I was going to drop out, but my tenth grade teacher for my special help class told me I was smart. He helped with reading every day. He got other teachers to help me. I graduated high school. I'm starting college next year." This real voice from the classroom is one heard by many teachers across America. Laura Robb made the voice public. As a dedicated teacher for over 40 years, she has passionately prepared students for their roles in society and continues to provide teachers with guidance, research in the field of literacy, and modeled examples of strategic reading. Her love for reading and what it offers was felt by all in the room on Thursday night. 

With the Common Core rigorous expectations, voluminous reading is a priority. Developing children's passion for reading is a combined call to action for both parents and educators. Did you know???
  • 10% of American public schools don't have a central library where students can check out books.
  • Each year 1.3 million high school students drop out due to poor reading and writing skills; more than half are students of color (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2010).
If inclined, you may wish to visit the Educator2Educator website to find out more about the noble cause of bringing books and ebooks to high poverty schools. Also, part of the initiative is to develop professional libraries for teachers to meet the challenges of creating learners who read like detectives and write like conscientious, investigative reports. Teachers may wish to apply for grants from the foundation.  Information is noted on the website.

United voices are heard across the globe today as we celebrate World Teacher's Day. Educator2Educator is but one voice speaking to the cause of the power of books to change lives.