Team Right Now Literacy — Are you in?

I should have clicked the recorder app on. That was my thought as I left a session at NCTE presented by Kylene Beers, Pam Allyn, Ernest Morrell, and Kwame Alexander. I could not push my pen fast enough, and my notes are a mess. But their collective messages still echo in my mind a full week later.

My best buds already shared highlights from their #NCTE16 experiences. Shana calls for change, and Lisa gives thanks and speaks of passion. I am honored to call these educators friends. They are an integral part of why I am able to do what I do and teach the way I teach.

And so are educators like Kylene, Pam, Ernest, and Kwame. (Yes, I do believe first names are in order.) Their expert messages made me feel smarter, convinced me to write more and advocate louder, and validated the moves I’ve made in my career and in my classroom this fall. I revisited my notes and searched for all the resources they shared, and I share them with you here.

Their words are a mash up with mine in the pages of my notebook. I hope they will forgive me that my thinking and theirs blurs and blends in this blog post just like it does in my head, heart, and practice.

Here’s what I captured (and will return to again and again) from my favorite NCTE session, “Expert to Expert: The Joy & Power of Reading”:

I wrote:  “Find the quote on courage by Maya Angelou.” She spoke a lot about courage, screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-00-09-pmand I don’t remember if this is the quote shared, but it’s worth sharing anyway. It certainly relates.

Kwame:  references “Quilting the Black-eyed Pea” by Nikki Giovanni. We have to be able to find the hope, the power of language and literature, to find and share students’ voices. We need the courageousness to become more human.

Validation! For those of you in the Three Teachers Talk Facebook group, you may have seen the link to the resources I began collecting for the theme for my year, aptly named, Courageously Human. At the time, I thought this would make a nice unit. In reality, it’s become the theme for my year — and maybe the theme for the rest of my teaching life.

Ernest:  Courage is the willingness to take risks. Courage is maintaining self-love in a time of hatred. Right now it’s a time of belonging — and asking the question: “Who am I belonging with?”

Courage is not something you say but something you manifest.

Pam:  Teaching is social change. Courage is about optimism. Robert Frost said: “I never write about what I am  against. I write about what I am for.”

Kylene: shared a tender story of her father who stood up for desegregation with quiet and steady determination. “We just do what we need to do.”

What are you mustering courage for right now?

Kyleen quotes Kwame’s NY TImes article: “The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child.” If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to!

Kwame:  There’s this notion that we must bring literature to the poor, those in poverty, as if it will save them. This is true. But “the haves” need this, too! We have to make connections — to all kids on all sides. We also need to figure out how to keep all kids in the room — so many are “put out.” How is this helping?

Pam:  All the work of literacy is about story:  tell it, write it, share it. Loudly. Pam shares and LitWorld. Her passion burns as brightly as the beauty of her message. Empower girls by giving voice to their stories. Open the Truth.

Literacy fuels what is already within.

Ernest:  On Critical Literacy. This must be empowering. How do we teach students to speak back to the book? We must bring multiple critical lenses to the text and read against the world. We need literary presencing:  all kids must see themselves in the books they read.

Enough with the marching. The real advocacy is in the classroom.

What kind of human dignity do we need to create in kids so they feel like they have a voice? 99.9% of what we do is based on the choices we make as educators.

ErnestMorrell quote.png

Kylene:  We need a different way of reading and writing. We need transactional reading and writing — the research of Louise Rosenblatt. YES!

Kwame:  He reads a poem from Open a World of Possible and tells us the delightful news:  This poem is being made into a picture book in 2018.

Kylene asks the panel:  What type of reading should we be doing now?

Pam:  VORACIOUS. All kinds of texts all day long. We need to be immersed in a mash up of literacy.


The read aloud should not only dwell in fiction. We think too much about the titles. Our students need all kinds of words — a mash up of so many things. The movement is a Celebration of Reading!

Ernest:  We are in a new classic movement in English Language Arts. It’s a need for right now literature.

We need students to read like writers. To read and share their own genius in production. Students should be reading each others’ works. They should be choosing their own books.

Let’s march for libraries and librarians!

Kwame:  Four books coming out next year:  Solo, a YA novel in verse; Out of Wonder, a picture book about poets; Animal Ark with National Geographic — will have haiku for each animal; The Playbook, 52 rules to aim, shoot, and score in the game of life.

Kylene:  Choice reading never begins with “What level are you?” Children are not levels.


We have reduced literature to A, B or C.

I have a ton more thinking to do on all of this great thinking.

I’ll tell you this, my reader-friends, later that evening after an excellent afternoon of hearing other presenters, visiting booths at the exhibition hall, eating dinner with my TTT team, and trying to get my head wrapped around my own 15 minutes in a session the next day, I walked the mile to my hotel and sensed a glimmer of gold. I sat in the hotel bar (didn’t want to disturb my roommate) and wrote three pages of notes in my notebook — and maybe an outline for a book.

I’ll share that in another post.

Wishing you health and happiness as you move through this holiday season. May you find joy in the journey as you spread the love of literacy with young and old, far and wide.

Thank you for being a part of Team Right Now Literacy. Our children deserve to be literate in a startlingly illiterate world.






5 thoughts on “Team Right Now Literacy — Are you in?

  1. […] what I’ve dubbed Right Now Literacy. We have to give every student the commitment, resources, and opportunities they need to learn the […]


  2. […] my inner Pam Allyn, and directly quoting her, I exclaimed, “Yes there is!  Teaching IS social […]


  3. #3TTWorkshop –Right Now Literacy | December 7, 2016 at 6:46 am Reply

    […] wrote about this idea of Right Now Literacy in a post as I reflected on NCTE. I would love for the educators I trust most to help me think and […]


  4. Start with a Question | November 29, 2016 at 7:40 am Reply

    […] Amy wished us “joy in the journey” in her post synthesizing her learning […]


  5. shanakarnes November 29, 2016 at 4:45 am Reply

    Ha! You did a MUCH better job than me of getting these notes down in your notebook! My pages from this session are a hot mess. At one point I just started scribbling doodles because I just couldn’t keep up. So, thank you for that!

    And, thank you for your vision–you are so great at taking all of this wisdom and synthesizing it into something great: a clever turn of phrase, a blog post, an article, a book. I can’t wait to read ALL of those things from you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: