For many teachers and students, the summer months are a chance to change pace, to dig into projects of personal interest, and just…breathe. But for many kids, summer is also a time when learning grinds to a halt. Students in lower socio-economic households in particular have little opportunity to practice the academic skills that began to take root and gel by the end of the year. One particular area of well-documented summer decline is in reading. When students don’t read during the months of summer, the effects on their academic progress are disastrous.
I have come to love fantasy novels, particularly young adult fantasy. There’s no doubt that the Harry Potter series stirred this love. Who couldn’t adore a book that got millions of children to read? The teen fascination with Twilight and The Hunger Games did the same thing—literally millions of teens are reading and talking about these books. They join blogs, they dress up like the characters, they attend the film releases, they compare the books to the movies. Fantasy has been a force for good in literacy.
—Mary Ehrenworth, in Learning from the Elves: A Genre Study of the Complexities and Themes of Fantasy
Last week in the first installment of this three-part series we discussed the inspiration behind the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries and began exploring the vision that guided the curators, a team made up of TCRWP staff, literacy coaches, renowned librarians, mentor teachers, and children’s literature experts such as Anita Silvey. This week we dive deeper into the fascinating story of the curation process.
The setting: Thorndike Hall, an enormous sub-basement at Teachers College, Columbia University. Hunkered down in their makeshift headquarters, TCRWP staff members sorted through boxes upon boxes of books recommended by over eight hundred educators and librarians from around the world. Over the course of a year, they meticulously reviewed tens of thousands of books using multiple selection criteria and consulted with dozens of the world’s leading experts in literacy and children’s literature. Lucy gives her first-hand perspective of the collaborative process here:
For the past several years, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects have stepped into the spotlight. And for good reason. James Brown, the executive director of the STEM Education Coalition in Washington, D.C., has said, "The future of the economy is in STEM. That’s where the jobs of tomorrow will be.” According to the website of The STEM Education Coalition, "Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) support [Brown’s] assertion. Employment in occupations related to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022."
“I think that many teachers have been subjected to intensive efforts to remake their small-group instruction so that it is 'just so.' There have been so many books written on how to lead small groups in precisely the right ways that too many teachers approach a little hub of readers, gripped by anxiety over doing this The Right Way. Meanwhile, the whole point is to be personal, be responsive, and to channel kids to do some work while you observe and coach.”
– Lucy Calkins, in A Guide to the Reading Workshop