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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Paying it Forward… with Literacy

Paying it Forward… with Literacy

Last month, my sons experienced the magic of Disney for the first time.  The kids were spending their last bit of souvenir money when we hit a bit of a snag.  My five year old wanted to spend more money than he had left.  Could we afford to get him what he wanted?  Yes, but we decided to stick to the limit that we had given him before the vacation.

Like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, a Disney employee suddenly swooped in and said, “Mickey Mouse wants to buy your souvenir.” Alex beamed. The employee proceeded to lead him through the check out line, purchase his toy, and present him with a Mickey Mouse pin and sticker.  This small act of kindness is one of the best memories we have from our trip. Shortly after we arrived home, I found myself on the receiving end of an act of kindness. My colleagues at the elementary school at which I had previously worked presented me with a basket of children’s books.  Being the book lover that I am, I was excited to unwrap each one.  However, when I opened the first book, I found this on the inside. My colleagues couldn’t have given me a better gift. You see… these books aren’t for me; they are for the kids.  All of the books were donated to the school library so that kids will continue to have access to engaging, high-quality text.  Instead of reaching one reader, they will reach hundreds over time.

This got me thinking about how we can pay it forward with literacy.  Below are some ideas that have helped us give the gift of literacy, special acts of kindness.

Laundromat Literacy- Our local reading council places baskets of books in laundromats across town.  We include books for both children and adults.  No one cares whether those books walk away when the laundry is done.  The council maintains and restocks them.

Book Raffles– At the end of the school year, we ask each teacher to donate a book, package it in a gift bag with the name of the book visible, and  display them at an annual celebration. Kids purchase raffle tickets for 25 cents each and drop them into the bucket for the book that they want to win.  All proceeds go to the PTA, and winners go home with favorite books or books from their favorite teachers.  Parents get excellent book ideas, even if their kids don’t win. Book Drives- If your school has more access to books than other schools in your area, consider a book drive.  When our population reached 900 students a few years ago, we asked that each student bring a book to donate to show the impact that 900 students could make.  The kids far exceeded their goal, and we were able to donate over 3,000 to local elementary schools as well as the Children of Incarcerated Parents Project.  This group maintains a lending library in the local detention center so that children can take a book home after visiting their loved ones.


In Memoriam–  When my grandmother passed away last year, my colleagues recognized an opportunity to again pay it forward with literacy while honoring her love of reading and educating students.  They donated funds which allowed me to purchase new books for our school library.  I was able to add new releases by authors such as Katherine Applegate and Jacqueline Woodson to our media center’s circulation, and the book plate in each one communicated that the book was available for students to read, in honor of her love of literacy.

In what other ways can we pay it forward… with literacy?  I’d love to hear what others are doing to celebrate literacy.  The book is in your court!


Join the celebration every week on Ruth Ayres’ blog here.


The Power of the PLN #IMWAYR

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“Just 10 more minutes,” I tell myself.

15 speed by.

“Maybe 5 more minutes, and then I’ll get to all the things I need to do today,” I bargain with myself.

Before I know it, a ridiculous amount of time has elapsed.

What was I doing?  Giving myself permission to read through the “Blogs I Follow” feed in WordPress this morning.  I normally keep up with them a little better but had gotten behind after a recent family vacation.

“Just one more. One more,” I kept rationalizing.  But we all know, you can’t stop at just one.


So it’s Monday, and what am I reading?  Your stories, your book reviews and recommendations, your thoughts on education, your successes this week with your students, your slices of life.  I don’t think I could find a book that could match the brilliance that I have been reading this morning.

And the beauty of this type of reading is that it is interactive and generative. I favorited your posts.  I commented on your posts.  I shared your posts on Twitter.

Some of the must-reads from my reading journey this morning:

Do. Not. Miss “What Matters Most” by Jon Harper. Jon’s story about some of his last moments with his father will tug at your heartstrings.  In the reading community we talk about #heartprintbooks; this is a #heartprintblog . Jon manages to take those everyday moments in life to reflect on our purpose as educators and our responsibilities to children.  His writing is simply amazing.

A Window into Classrooms:

Posts from the Reading Community- There was a flurry of activity on my Goodreads account this morning thanks to posts like:

  • Books that Make Us Cry- part 1 and part 2 by members of the Nerdy Book Club Community, collected by Donalyn Miller
  • Who is Travis Nickerson from Fish in a Tree? – Lynda Mulally Hunt shares how her experiences impact character development and relationships.  This type of information changes how I read the story. Priceless!

My Own Personalized Professional Development-

The Slice of Life pieces- March kicks off the Slice of Life writing challenge hosted by the wonderful leaders of Two Writing Teachers. While I am not yet ready to commit to writing every day just yet, this group is amazing, and I am enjoying reading your posts. From Julieanne’s close reading experience in the cosmetics aisle in “Grocery Store Luxuries” to Tara’s father- son moment in “Snowball Fight to Start the Day” to Fran’s found poem, based on a quote by Elizabeth Gilbert, there is something for everyone. So much creativity!

So did I spend a lot more time that I had planned reading your blogs?  Absolutely. But just look at how much I have grown as an educator through your influence. I hope this serves as a reminder to reconsider the authors around us and give ourselves permission to spend our valuable time reading their work with the same permission we give ourselves to read “published” works.

I’d love to hear about bloggers that speak to you!  The book (or blog in this case) is in your court…

For more examples of what others are reading, be sure to head over to the IMWAYR link-up at Teach Mentor Texts, hosted by Jen Vincent.

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be

Literacy Lenses

Just another site

Katherine Bomer

The Journey is Everything: Writing & Teaching to Discover, to Essay, to Live Wide Awake

EdTech Bytes with Bormann

Ideas for integrating technology into a 21st-century classroom.

Ms. Victor Reads

Reflections on my life as a teacher.

Teachers for Teachers

Just another site

Ethical ELA

Reflections on Teaching English


Two Literacy Teachers Learning and Sharing in the Blended Learning Classroom

Teachers As Innovators

Two teachers bringing research into classroom practice