From Striving to Thriving: Advocate Tirelessly

Literacy instruction can take on many different forms.  Some of these may be rooted in sound practices and some...well...not so much.  As educators, we know that all students deserve teachers that are working to use best practice.  We also know (with the help of these authors) that striving readers deserve more than mandated, unsound programs and a lack of high interest books.  But how do we support change in our classrooms, schools, or districts?
Ideas to help you advocate for striving readers every day
By definition, advocate means to publicly recommend or support a cause.  This can be very scary if you feel isolated or lonely.  Stephanie and Annie recommend that we be literacy upstanders, that we collect, analyze, and share data, and that we keep going and growing.  Let's dive just a bit deeper into each of these suggestions.

Be Literacy Upstanders

The first way that we can advocate for our students is to be the "guardian of kids' reading lives" (p240).  Ask for money, send out emails to request donations or to borrow high interest books that will appeal to the readers.  Find out the interests of your students prior to them even walking into the door.  Welcome them with books!  Personally, I have found that used book stores, consignment shops, and garage sales are great places to search for inexpensive books.  Another choice that is available to lower income schools is  They offer thousands of brand-new, high interest books at a low cost.
Advocate for Striving Readers: Support readers by providing book talks, explicitly teaching comprehension strategies,  building off the readers' strengths, and getting books into the hands of every reader.
Advocate for Families: Support families by explaining the importance of oral storytelling and talking in the home, providing information about independent reading, and by demonstrating how to get a public library card.
Help Administrators Advocate for Students: Support administrators by inviting them into the classroom to see independent reading in action, sharing current literacy research, and by ensuring that they know the success stories of your striving readers.
Help Students Advocate for Themselves: Support students by helping them to find their reading identity, honoring their voice, and by creating a safe environment.

Collect, Analyze, and Share Data

Obviously, sharing the research that is out there from our literacy experts is important.  But to advocate for our students means that we must also share what is actually happening around us and how it is impacting the kids within our classrooms, schools, or districts.  Here are some suggestions of what to share but don't feel limited to these!
reading survey to find out interests of even our youngest students
  • Conduct your own case studies
  • Observations/conference records
  • Reading logs
  • Students' self reflections
  • Library history
  • Independent reading progress
Even our youngest students can share their interests.  By gluing an interest survey into their reading or conferencing notebook, you (or your student) can add/delete/change their interests as they discover their reading identity.

Keep Growing and Changing

In order to be the best that we can be for our students, we must feed and nourish ourselves too. If we don't, we may begin to feel unmotivated, stuck, and uninspired.  These are not good feelings for an educator because future minds are at stake.  We need to make sure we take the time to learn and grow.  We can do this in several ways.

Engage with a supportive professional community
We all know that the team of teachers around us impacts our own feelings about the school environment.  Finding your own professional community that can help to build you up, support you, show empathy, and share positive experiences is absolutely imperative to your health as a teacher.  This supportive team can take on many different forms.  Here are a few ways that I have found my professional community: book club (we meet once a month), Facebook groups, online teacher friendships, and like-minded teachers within my school.
Attend your own professional development
This one is huge!!  For many of us, our schools do not have a large (or any) budget for professional development.  But that does not mean we should not have any!!  We must seek it out ourselves and  be our own advocates.  We are lucky to be in the age of technology because there is so much out there!
  •  Read, read, read: professional book studies are a great way to develop new skills.  Following
    along with book studies such as this one or even starting one with the teachers in your building!  The past few summers my teammate and I facilitated a book study that met once a week throughout the month of June.  It was a great way to talk about a professional book, get to know each other outside of school, and eat good food!
  • Read reliable blogs: we all have our favorites. You can check out all of our blogs in the "about us" tab but here are a few of my favorite blogs.  Please share yours in comments.
    • Two Writing Teachers
    • Nerdy Book Club
    • Forever in First
  • Check out social media: Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are also places where you can find a teaching community.  Find people that share similar views and that will push you to grow.  I enjoy following educators that are in tune to new and upcoming books.  This helps me to stay on top of what is out there.
  • Professional development events: I know this sounds expensive.  But there are things out there that are free or sometimes super inexpensive.  These places sometimes have free PD:
    • local zoo
    • library
    • local university or college
    • county resource centers
    • Nerd Camp 
Please remember that as an advocate, you are not alone.  Being an advocate can be exhausting but those children need us to be their voice, while they find their own.  As I was reading this chapter, I found this quote by Lily Tomlin and I think it is the perfect thing to leave you with today.  You are that somebody.
Did you miss any of the chapters of this book study?  You can check them out here:

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