Literacy Leadership is not a Passive Sport

July 18, 2020

 

Recently (as in yesterday) my wife was walking through our family room and paused as she passed the coffee table. I heard her say, "That table is ridiculous..." before she went about her business. My wife has the gift of being able to offer up honest assessments that are a perfect combination of clear and accurate. I've always appreciated this about her...even when I'm the subject of her observations. 

 

At any rate, I didn't give the comments she made about our table too much thought initially...mostly because I was reading something and couldn't really argue. However, when I woke up early this morning, I found myself sitting alone and staring at that same table. I started analyzing its contents and came to a similar conclusion as my wife. Our coffee table is ridiculous... it's spectacularly ridiculous! 

 

I'll lay claim to at least a third (maybe a half) of the books on that table...but here's the rest of the story and why I think it might matter to any school leader committed to literacy.

 

  • For the purpose of context, you should know our family clears that table weekly...so everything on it is getting used, referenced, and read on a regular basis.

 

  • As soon as it is cleared, our three kids restart their book stacks...so keeping that table organized is a losing battle.

 

  • At least one of our kids is consistently reading four different books at the same time. (I don't understand it, but I'm here for it.)

 

  • Another one of our kids reads at least a book a day. (I'm not sure how she does this...and I'm jealous.)

 

  • And yet another one of our kids has assumed the role of trying to read the same books the other two are reading just to keep everyone on their toes. (You can probably imagine how this plays out amongst our kids.)

 

  • As I alluded to earlier...several of the books are connected to some writing projects I'm working on, but plenty of others are YA titles that are either on-deck or that I've recently finished and want to respond to in some way (e.g., writing a review, book-talking, etc.).

 

  • Lastly, when our oldest child woke up this morning the first thing I noticed her do was dig through the books on the table to find the one she had left off on yesterday.

 

  • Confession: I removed a couple of Pokemon portfolios and gum wrappers to help de-clutter the table before taking this picture, so it's missing a little bit of the ridiculousness my wife noticed yesterday. :)

 

All of this has me reflecting on the things schools do to invest in kids' identities as readers. This is a really big deal. I understand not every family has (or even wants) a coffee table like ours. I also understand many families are lacking access to books, and this is something we need to address.

 

So, here's what I'm thinking...leading literacy doesn't start in a PLC meeting or classroom observation...it starts at your coffee table or nightstand and flows from there. It's in your DNA and something you live-out on a daily basis. It is not a passive endeavor. 

 

And it's connected to PLC work and instruction too. Because the work we're attaching to students' reading lives will either help them fall deeper in love with reading, or it will ensure they do just about anything other than reading. We need to choose carefully because school should make students want to binge read. 

 

 

If this blog post resonated, you might like my newest book, Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education. The book tackles a tension many educators are feeling using a combination of stories and practical strategies. If you’re interested in technology integration, Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students is a best-seller with Corwin Press. Both books are built on the belief that everything we do in education starts with relationships and connectedness.

 

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Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 

 

Connect on email at:

AdjustingCourse@gmail.com

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