Tag Archives: #NCTEcitizen

Why Is the Read-Aloud a Life-Changing Form of Civic Learning?

The following post was written by Pam Allyn and is part of an ongoing monthly series from the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”

—Mem Fox

The academic reasons to read aloud are profound: building comprehension skills by modeling a deepening engagement with text, building fluency as the child listens to the smoothness of a mentor reader, building vocabulary and grammar skills as the child marinates in literary language. But the benefits of the read-aloud extend far beyond improvements in reading ability. They also have a powerful impact on the child’s social and emotional development and the ineffable benefits to the child’s human spirit.

What does the read-aloud do to benefit the child’s spirit? The read-aloud:

1. Builds empathy and understanding

Reading aloud gives children a lens through which to understand the experiences of others. The characters who become dear to us collectively in the warm embrace of the read-aloud are characters who, through the voice of the reader, become alive to our children. They are in the room with us. We can witness the other side of a story or the internal struggle of a beloved character. Authors such as Mo Willems, Charlotte Zolotow, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Kwame Alexander all create a tenderly reverberating world of empathy and compassion, of knowledge building, of how we are all human in this great big complex world we live in.

2. Scaffolds cultural engagement

A story in literary or informational form is honoring the experiences and lives of a whole world of people living in a variety of cultural and linguistic contexts. The read-aloud is powerful when it can be a way to bridge divides and also to illuminate differences that are compelling and wonderful to the listener. Let us select books to read aloud that represent a wide range of characters and cultures, languages and dialects. Host a virtual read-aloud to share across cultures. Don’t worry if everyone doesn’t understand every word. Hearing stories read aloud from different cultures and languages gives a child the powerful sense of all the diversity in the world. Great writers give us exquisite examples of how the world is full of colors and sizes and sounds that all add up to our humanity, and great writers also write specifically from their own cultural perspectives and language to share the details that make us profoundly and beautifully different. Beyond all else is the fact that reading aloud is a powerful complement to the oral tradition around story sharing.

The sound of the human voice passing along stories has a deep tradition across many cultures, and the presence of the read-aloud in our classroom is a way to honor that.

3. Cultivates the power of deep listening

Reading aloud builds listening skills in an unparalleled way. These skills extend far beyond the world of reading. Research of children’s reading habits conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that reading aloud to kids every day will put them a year ahead of kids who are not read aloud to daily, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances. Listening deeply means we are not only encouraging answers in response to preordained questions, but also that we are encouraging listening to the sound of an author who conveys his or her particular style, that we are listening to the unique dialogue characters speak, that we are listening to tone and rhythm and the sheer delight of literary sound.

4. Creates excitement for the beauty of vocabulary and grammar

Reading a Walt Whitman poem to a group of fourth graders is a powerful immersion in complex grammar and vocabulary. They don’t have to understand every word or even most lines to soak up the sophistication of his text. The cadence and intention of his ideas carry them along as a boat carrying its passengers, riding the high seas boldly and bravely.

As I Walk These Broad, Majestic Days

As I walk these broad, majestic days of peace,

(For the war, the struggle of blood finish’d, wherein, O terrific Ideal!

Against vast odds, having gloriously won,

Now thou stridest on–yet perhaps in time toward denser wars,

Perhaps to engage in time in still more dreadful contests, dangers,

Longer campaigns and crises, labors beyond all others;)

–As I walk solitary, unattended,

Around me I hear that eclat of the world–politics, produce,

The announcements of recognized things–science,

The approved growth of cities, and the spread of inventions.

There are certainly complex words and phrases in this poem, but the overall theme and the soaring rhythm and even a small amount of background knowledge will give our students the thrill of a lifetime. Your voice conveying that excitement and fearlessness is what helps them to tackle difficult grammar and vocabulary in their own independent reading lives.

5. Fuels happiness

Happiness really matters. Ask any parent what they most want for their child and happiness is one of the top two answers (good health is the other). Yet when we talk about school and about teaching, we talk about outcomes to the exclusion of happiness. We talk about test scores and formative results of portfolios and improvements, all of which most certainly matter, but at the end of the day, for me as a mother and as an educator, the smile matters most. I think we truly underestimate the importance of happiness in school. I have sometimes said that the only assessment we actually need would be to ask children: “Were you happy in school today?” Their response would tell us everything we need to know, from the quality of the teaching to the quality of the physical environment to the interaction of peers.

The read-aloud fuels pure happiness. When done in a comfortable setting with a wonderful book, the entire community is lifted up, and the children are energized, excited, included, and joyous. All the conditions for great learning are met.

P.S. Visit my organization litworld.org to find out how you can join us for World Read-Aloud Day!

Putting Citizenship in Global Perspective in the ELA Classroom

drvivianThe following post is by Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, professor of education at Penn State Univeristy. This is part of an ongoing monthly series from the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

Global Citizenship “is a way of living that recognises our world is an increasingly complex web of connections and interdependencies. One in which our choices and actions may have repercussion for people and communities locally, nationally or internationally” (Ideas for Global Citizenship).

This concept is of particular interest to us as we celebrate our nation’s independence on the Fourth of July. It allows us to ponder how our ancestors had managed to secure our freedom as a nation from the British, and how we had to wrestle with the contradictory content of our Constitution that celebrates the right to be free while still holding others in bondage.

Therefore, we should take this time to contemplate deeply what it means to be an American citizen, and who should be considered an American. As we reflect on this nationalistic notion of citizenship, we should also consider engaging in dialogues of what it means to be a global citizen, especially in a world where leaders are constantly rethinking physical boundaries in order to hold tight to their national identities, and the tension such nationalistic views might create. In so doing, they undermine major aspects of our collective humanity that allow us to cultivate a nurturing world for everyone. Many do not realize that what we do within our local communities can and does impact communities in other regions of the world, for we are interconnected in this way, even when we engage in charity work that touches many across the globe, or participate in political rallies to make democracy possible elsewhere.

Ronald C. Israel, co-founder of the Global Citizens’ Initiative, observes that,

Most of us on the path to global citizenship are still somewhere at the beginning of our journey. Our eyes have been opened and our consciousness raised. Instinctively, we feel a connection with others around the world yet we lack the adequate tools, resources, and support to act on our vision. Our ways of thinking and being are still colored by the trapping of old allegiances and ways of seeing things that no longer are as valid as they used to be. There is a longing to pull back the veil that keeps us from more clearly seeing the world as a whole and finding more sustainable ways of connecting with those who share our common humanity.

If fathoming how one can be an American citizen and yet be able to perceive oneself as a global citizen may seem challenging, perhaps we should start by examining how we serve our local communities on a regular basis.

Community Services: Local and Global Connections

Many educators are already engaged in practices that impact global communities and reflect their global citizenry even if they are not aware. At a spring 2017 professional development school conference in State College, PA, I attended a session where a teacher presented about a partnership with a school in Africa where they collect books and send them to students. This session was of particular interest to me because I know firsthand how difficult it is for schoolteachers in several public schools across the continent to find basic educational resources for their classrooms.

Also, having served as a member of the Children’s Africana Book Awards committee, I am also privy to book publication initiatives on topics such as The Water Project. One such publication is a picture book, Gizo-Gizo, on the Zongo Story Project that emerged from a partnership between Emily Williamson and John Schaidler from Minneapolis and the Hassaniyya Quranic School in Ghana. The back matter notes:

Working closely with local teachers, Emily Williamson carried out a series of educational workshops at [the school] to teach students about local water and environmental concerns. . . . Building on previous work at his children’s schools in Minneapolis and New York City, John [Schaidler] spent the summers . . . in the remote village of Humjibre in Ghana’s Western District.

For more on this, check out www.zongostoryproject.com. The water problem is local to that specific community, but the solution takes a collective effort that includes a global initiative involving communities from two continents. This is one way we connect at the human level.

Several picture books have documented these types of global partnerships.

Suggested Titles

Environment

Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul
The Water Princess by Georgie Badiel and Susan Verde; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Religious Diversity

Faith by Maya Ajmera, Cynthia Pon, and Magda Nakassis
Sacred Places by Philemon Sturges; illustrated by Giles Laroche

Refugees

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andrée Poulin; illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

Education

For the Right to Learn by Rebecca Langston-George; illustrated by Janna Bock

Activism

Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara


More Global Citizenship Resources

Worlds of Words: Building bridges across global cultures through children’s and adolescent literature

Africa Access: Links to a variety of resources on topics related to the continent of Africa

Teaching Good Citizenship’s Five Themes, from Education World: A focus on the five basic themes of good citizenship (honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage)

Picture Books about Citizenship

Digital Citizenship: Explores the “9 Key Ps” of digital citizenship

Seven strategies to get children talking and thinking about digital citizenship

Teens and Digital Citizenship: Responsible digital citizenship can help your child have a safer and more satisfying experience online.

OXFAM’s guide for global citizenship

A free lesson plan on a global citizenship workshop


Work Cited

Israel, Roland (2012). “What Does It Mean to be a Global Citizen?” Kosmos: Journal for Global Transformation. http://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-global-citizen/  Accessed: June 22, 2017.

Reading List for Summer in Participatory Citizenship

The following post was written by Pam Allyn and is part of an ongoing monthly series from the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

Reading is one of the best ways for children to step outside of their own lives and gain perspective on the world. An important aspect of participatory citizenship is an openness to other people’s experiences that are different from our own. Books are an important portal into the experiences of others; reading is proven to make people more empathetic. Empathy is an important part of participatory citizenship: participation in society and community, fueled by mutual respect for others. Books can help kids gain awareness of past and present global issues, which can lead to more direct and effective participatory citizenship. Below is a short summer reading list, including different books for all ages, to encourage and foster global participatory citizenship. After each book is a discussion or activity prompt to encourage deeper thinking and action.

lilahs-lunchboxLailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story
by Reem Faruqi K-3

This is a story about a girl who moves from Abu Dhabi to the U.S. It’s not only her first year in a new school, but also her first year fasting for Ramadan. This book addresses Lailah’s mixed feelings about being a new student who practices a religion different than most of her peers. The takeaway message from this book about participatory citizenship is the way in which sharing cultures allows Lailah and the other characters in the book to connect with each other and personally grow. This book is a great read because every child will relate to the themes: feeling out of place, growing up, and the hope that others will understand you. The book demonstrates how sharing your own culture, as well as expressing openness to the cultures of others, leads to joy, harmony, peace, and friendship.

Prompt: Think of something about yourself that your classmates may not know about you and write it on a sheet of paper. Trade papers with a partner and each person illustrates what they learned about their classmate.

fourfeettwosandalsFour Feet, Two Sandals
by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed 1-5

This book is a great way to introduce children to the realities of living in a refugee camp, why people are refugees, and then relate it to their own lives. A ten year old girl named Lina ends up sharing a pair of sandals with a girl named Feroza, since there are not enough sandals for everyone. These two characters experience the hardships of life in a refugee camp: waiting on long lines for water, the hard journey that brought them there, the fear for their futures, no access to education, among other obstacles. This is a book that will get children thinking about the hardships faced by people in other parts of the world.

Prompt: The girls in this book are friends who care about each other. What are some things we already do for our friends to show them we care? What are things we can do in the future?

laststopLast Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la Peña K-2

A book about a boy and his grandmother and their Sunday afternoon routine, Last Stop on Market Street will touch the hearts of children and adults alike. It is also a quiet call to action, inspiring us to be better people, and to do good for others, no matter how much or how little we ourselves have. In the book, CJ and his nana wait for the bus after church, and CJ is curious about his surroundings and his life. The final
stop for the pair is a soup kitchen. Although CJ and nana don’t have as much as some others, volunteering at the soup kitchen is still a priority for CJ and nana. This book will inspire kids to volunteer, and beyond volunteering, teaches all of us how to practice appreciation and gratitude in our everyday lives. Last Stop on Market Street won the 2016 Newberry Medal, was a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book.

Prompt: Write a list of things we are grateful for in our life. Next, choose one thing on that list and write down how we can express our gratitude. For example, telling our family members we love them, or, sharing our favorite music with a classmate.

henrysfreedomboxHenry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
by Ellen Levine Gr 2-5

A 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, Henry’s Freedom Box is an important historical picture book. A book about one slave’s remarkable escape from slavery to freedom, Henry’s Freedom Box addresses the hardships of life as a slave and the dehumanization of slavery. Henry is taken from his mother as a child and later separated from his wife and child. This book successfully conveys the pain of Henry’s life and why he risked his life for freedom. This is a great story that can be used to teach children about U.S. history, slavery, and the repercussions that continue to influence our country to this day.

Prompt: How would you feel if you could no longer be with your family? What inspires you about Henry and the people who help him along the way?

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition)
by Malala Yousafzai, with Patricia McCormick Gr 6 and up

The young readers edition of Malala Yousafzai’s memoir is a must-read for all kids Grade 6 and up. Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban because she and her father advocated for girls’ education in Pakistan. Her memoir not only provides a historical background to the Taliban’s control of her hometown, but also her ongoing fight for education. Yousafzai–a Nobel Peace Prize Winner–is an inspiring figure because she advocates for human rights and education for all. Readers of this moving memoir will learn about middle-eastern politics, what it’s like to live in other parts of the world, and Yousafzai’s social activism. This book is both a call to action and an inspirational account of a young person who works tirelessly for others.

Prompt: Check out Malala Yousafzai’s organization and its tips on how to get involved in the fight for women’s education: hosting a film screening and writing letters to congress are just a couple suggestions.

hateugiveThe Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas Gr 8 and up

This novel is an important read for teens and adults alike. The protagonist, Starr, witnesses the shooting of her friend by a police officer, changing her life forever. Realistically capturing the repercussions of the event, as well as the political and cultural environment of the moment, this book is about far more than one girl’s experience of a tragic event. With its fierce social commentary on race, power, and police brutality in America, The Hate U Give is a textured, profound story of how past and present racism and violence impact lives. Through this perspective, readers will gain awareness about the necessity and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Prompt: Check out the Black Lives Matter website and see how you can get involved. For something creative, make posters that you would bring to a Black Lives Matter march.

indarknessIn Darkness
by Nick Lake Gr 8 and up

Merging the past and present, In Darkness is a vivid account of one boy’s struggle in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that shook–literally and figuratively–Haiti. Opening as the earthquake hits, the main character “Shorty” nearly dies. Just a teenager, Shorty suddenly feels the presence of the revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the journey of the book unfolds as the past and present influence each other through the lives of these two lives. Readers will learn about the Haitian Revolution, slavery, and the harsh historical realities of colonization, slavery, and natural disasters that led to Shorty’s life in the slums of one of the world’s poorest countries.

Prompt: Research and learn about life in Haiti after the earthquake and the aid responses. Consider how the history of Haiti continues to influence the country to this day.

marchtrilogyMarch Trilogy
by John Lewis, co-written by Andrew Aydin Gr 7 and up

These graphic novels are written by Congressman John Lewis. Together, they comprise the story of Lewis’ life, focusing on his fight for civil rights, beginning with his childhood in rural Alabama. The books continue through his fight for justice through nonviolent protest and the others who dedicated their lives to equality. Culminating in a scene where Lewis receives a Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, this memoir is a piercing reminder of how much work there is still to do. With an informative, inspiring story such as this one, young people will have the tools necessary to continue Lewis’ mission. The third book in the trilogy won this year’s National Book Award for young people’s literature.

Prompt: Think of a cause you are passionate about. If you were to plan a nonviolent protest to make change in the world, what would you do?

Honoring Trailblazing Women

Global Citizenship Campaign for March

The following post was written by members of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave—to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.”

—Malala Yousafzai

As the Standing Committee on Global Citizenship continues to consider ways in which teachers, students, and community members can increase our knowledge of what it means to be a global citizen, we turned to the status of girls and women for the month of March. In the United States, March serves as Women’s History Month, and the theme for Women’s History Month 2017 is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.”

There are many trailblazing women to admire, and thus on a personal level, girls might be encouraged to consult biographies of women who have made a difference in the world of business and labor. Understanding what encompasses both business and labor would be a great start for girls in elementary and middle school, while addressing explicit ways young women might enter the world of business and labor would make for great teaching at the secondary and postsecondary levels.

The National Women’s History Project website is a great resource for learning more about female leaders throughout time. Nominations for this year’s honorees include Kate Mullany, who, in 1845, began the first all-women labor union, and Lucy Parsons Gonzales, who founded the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905.

In discussions about women’s history, exemplars of strong voices who disrupt the status quo can be found in clips from biographies on series such as PBS’s “American Masters”. This month ABC’s “When We Rise,” addresses issues of gender and gender advocacy and offers another great way to encourage students to become familiar with positive avenues for equity.

As transgender equity seems threatened, emailing congressional representatives as well as school board representatives and school district administrators about supporting transgendered students is one action students can take. Talking about such issues and the historic actions taken in the past to protect other underrepresented groups is equally important.

Using biography projects (see Pinterest and Scholastic) or encouraging innovations through inquiry projects that would make a change in people’s lived experiences (see The Better India and edTechTeacher), young people have a path to action. Inviting students to become participants in organizations such as Girl Up or Disrupt and Innovate can help them see that they can be the change we want to see in the world.

NCTE Citizenship Campaign, February Focus: Black History Month

handsonglobeThe following post was written by members of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

February—Black History Month—offers an opportunity to encourage good citizenship when it comes to issues surrounding race while still meeting your content standards. To encourage personal citizenship1, discuss with students how they can be friends with and support peers from backgrounds different from their own. Their everyday interactions with people are a way of being a good citizen.

To help students be participatory citizens, have them look at the history of laws and/or current laws and policies that may be unfair to people of color or of different faiths. When it comes to justice-oriented citizenship, students could be asked to analyze and think critically about the laws and policies they looked at before and come up with a variety of solutions.

Grades K–5

For students at this younger age, we think it’s important to encourage them to maintain friendships with children outside their race or religion. Have class discussions about what it means to be a good friend and why it can be a good thing to have friends who are different from you.

Books to consider: The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson or Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

Grades 6–8

Middle school is an age where friendships can be complicated. It’s a great time to discuss with students how they choose friends. At this age they can start to think critically about whether or not their friend group is diverse and why. In addition to thinking about friendship you can have students conduct a mini research project. They can look through their curriculum and see how many black or nonwhite authors they have read in class, or people they have learned about in history, science, or math. This is a great way to look at your own curriculum and see who is represented and to consider why. Students can continue with the research project from the participatory citizen activity above and discuss and analyze their findings. They can determine whether or not they think there is an issue and write an argumentative paper as to why there is or isn’t. Perhaps if they all think there is an issue, they can come up with ways to fix it.

Book to consider: Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper

Grades 9–12

In high school students are being asked to do more critical thinking and analysis. Consider having your students examine your school’s dress code. Is it fair to people of all races? Genders? Why or why not? Can they write a proposal for a revised dress code if it isn’t? A research project looking at a person of color would be a great project too. You can use a nonfiction anchor text to help students write the paper while still working on reading skills.

Books to consider:

Other Ideas from ReadWriteThink.org

Note

  1. As in our previous post, we draw on the three types of citizens proposed by Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne in their article “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy” (American Educational Research Journal, Summer 2004, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 237-269): personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens, and justice-oriented citizens.