“Reading changes everything.”
TEMPLE TERRACE LIBRARY
One of the fondest memories of my childhood, growing up in Tampa, just a short walk from Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, was the children’s section of the Temple Terrace Public Library. I can still hear the swoosh of the sliding glass doors, hear the tile floor beneath my shoes, and remember the immense card catalog and the small slips of paper and golf pencils available to write down the titles and call numbers of books I wanted to find. I also vividly remember the joy of finding the very book I wanted, waiting for me on the shelf; waiting for me to discover a new place, learn a new skill, or find a new beloved friend. I was a voracious reader—reading to learn, reading for enjoyment, reading because I was bored, reading to escape boredom. Books were a constant in my life. What I knew at the time was, when I found the right book, no one had to convince me to read. What I didn’t know, was the difference that reading would continue to make in my life—personally, professionally, intellectually, and civically.
Reading changes everything.
In 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts published the most “complete and up-to-date report of the nation’s reading trends and—perhaps, most important—their considerable consequences” (To Read Or Not To Read, 2007). The findings in this report are “simple, consistent, and alarming”:
- Americans are spending less time reading.
- Reading comprehension skills are eroding.
- These declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications.
While these findings are alarming, they are also changeable. These findings DO NOT have to be the reality of the children and families in Hillsborough County Public Schools. “Literacy is the most important single goal of schooling—a reliable indicator of general competence and life chances,”(Hirsch, 2010). Literacy is the backbone of an effective curriculum. Reading, writing, thinking, and talking throughout the school day are the keys to changing reading habits, increasing content knowledge, and sharpening thinking skills. There are many necessary elements to make certain literacy is the foundation of our schools, including:
- Ensuring ACCESS TO HIGH QUALITY BOOKS by guaranteeing EVERY CLASSROOM has a robust library.
- Supporting teachers and schools in DESIGNING CURRICULUM and lessons with time to READ, WRITE, THINK, AND TALK THROUGHOUT THE SCHOOL DAY.
- Partnering with caregivers and families to learn about each CHILD’S INTERESTS, STRENGTHS, AND TALENTS to assist in choosing books that kids can, and want to, read.
Reading changes everything.
Several years ago, I read a statement that describes what has been the driving force of my two decades of experience in education: “Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design.”(Fisher, Frey & Hattie, 2016). I want an exceptional education for all of the children in Hillsborough County as much as I want an exceptional education for my own two boys. Focusing on literacy as the foundation for teaching and learning is fundamental in ensuring that EVERY CHILD—yours, mine, our neighbors’, and those of the families in all the varied parts of this large county—has access to an exceptional education.
We must begin to think about big literacy issues: the practices we adopt, how we share books with children, and how we invest in literacy across content areas, schools, and grade levels.