Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Game Changer! Book Access For All Kids

By Fran McVeigh

On Thursday, February 21, 2019, Donalynn Miller and Colby Sharp, creators of the #NerdyBookClub and successful authors, were first time guest hosts on the #G2Great chat about their book, Game Changer: Book Access for All Kids.

Interest and excitement was off the charts due to our rock star authors and because of the topic: Books and Access for ALL Kids! Many themes surfaced during the chat, but this post is going to focus on three. Three big themes that apply to ALL students at ALL ages and in ALL communities: Access, Choice, and Equity as well as focus reflection questions to guide future actions.

Book Access in ALL Classrooms
In order to be readers, students need access to books in their classrooms. Access in all classrooms – not just English Language Arts classrooms. How many books? Some authors suggest up to 2,000 books. Take inventory. Consider which books students are actually reading. Then gather books from the school media center, public library or inter-library loan systems during particular curricular studies to supplement your library as a bonus for all students.

Reflection Questions: a) What if every classroom in our school had a class library, whether it was ELA, math, science, art, music or PE, provided and provisioned by the school?

b) What if students had access to a reading class at every grade level in school?

Book Access in the Media Center and to a Librarian
Classroom libraries provide immediate access for books for students, but even the best classroom libraries can be supported with rich media centers and full-time librarians. How extensive is the media center collection? How are new books chosen? Displayed? How does the media center support the curricular needs of all content areas? What policies and routines are in place to maximize student access to books? Are students restricted in the number of books they can have checked out at one time? Are students allowed to go to the media center one day per week or cycle?

Reflection Question:  What policies, procedures and practices increase student access to our media center and which ones do we need to STOP because they are counterproductive?

Book Access at the Public Library
School book access can be supplemented with access to book collections at the approximately 9,000 public libraries across the U.S. Variations exist from community to community in the basic requirements for library cards. This may include forms of identification, proof of residency, or references before a card will be issued. The ability to use public transportation to physically access the library may also be a hinderance. Other access issues may include the hours that the library is open – are those outside the school/work day? Is there a limit on the number of books that can be checked out? Another consideration with public libraries may be the school staff’s normalization of the use of the public library. Do school staff routinely use the public library to extend their collections? Do teachers routinely share their use with students? Is public use of the library seamless and easy to access for all patrons?

Reflection Question:  Have we had whole staff conversations about the complementary services of our public library?

Book Access at Home
Access to books cannot be limited to the six or seven hours per day that students are at school. Reading is a habit – for life – not just for school.

“Research suggests that children whose parents have lots of books are nearly 20 percent more likely to finish college. Indeed, as a predictor of college graduation, books in the home trump the education of the parents. Even a child who hails from a home with 25 books will, on average, complete two more years of school than would a child from a home without any books at all. (Evans, M. D., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., & Treiman, D. J. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28(2), 171-197.)

Access to books in the summer through books from school or public libraries can help prevent “summer slide” and continue to develop life-time reading habits. Year-round book access is critical.

Reflection Question:  Who is coordinating conversations with families so our message is coherent across all grade levels and buildings and also HELPFUL for families?

Book Access in the Community
Students need access to books everywhere and anytime in the community. Access to rich texts that they want to read, that compel them to read, and that result in conversation with peers and adults is vital. Books need to be visible everywhere in the community as well as available year-round in order to fill in summer, school breaks, and holiday access gaps from schools.

Reflection Question:  How have we initiated conversations with our community stakeholders to increase access?

Students deserve to choose what they are reading.  Force-feeding specific texts day after day, year after year equates reading as a chore. Not fun. Not pleasurable. Not enjoyable. And then, of course, not likely to be sustained outside the school day. Nice collections of engaging, relevant books on shelves may look good, but just admiring books is not enough! Books need to be read in order to be savored and thoughtfully digested. And the best books are the books that students choose to read themselves. You have already read about access, but another feature of choice is time . . . Time to read. Not just reading “when your work is done.” But instead, time that is regularly scheduled when students are reading a book of their own choice.

Reflection Question: How do we ensure that students have choice in their book selection as well as time to read?

Equity means several things. One meaning would be ensuring that all the access issues above are “equitable”.  Not equal. Equitable. A second meaning is beyond students “getting what they need” but that students deserve to see themselves in the books that they have available as reading choices. Teachers and librarians need to know the authors and books that represent their students and families in their community. How does one collect the diverse books that are needed?  #diversebooks is one source.

Reflection Question: What do we as a staff know and believe about equity, what sources do all staff use, and then how are those sources communicated?

Another reliable source is

What was the purpose behind Game Changer?

Meaningful and consistent access to books.

Reading . . .
What is it good for?
Absolutely everything!

You may remember this video from Ocoee Middle School in 2009 that has had 883,395 views: Gotta Keep Reading.
How do we keep that passion for reading?
How do we encourage a love of reading?
It truly takes ALL of us working together as a literacy community!

Why was this extra special for #G2Great?
This chat was extra special because you can find both Dr. Mary Howard and our newest team member, Valinda Kimmel, in Game Changer! This book needs to be physically present and discussed in every school building across the country.

Where will you begin?
How will you change the system?

Resources to Explore
Many, many ideas from the chat are available in the Wakelet:

From Scholastic a recap of some highlights from the chat on EDU, Scholastic’s blog about books and the joy of reading:

Video Interview with Rudine Sims Bishop:

Parents:  Why is Reading Important?

Daniel Pennac:  10 Rights of a Reader

ILA:  Children’s Rights to Read

NCTE: A Book is a Precious Thing

Tanny McGregor sketchnote:  “The Secret Power of Children’s Picture Books

Fifty Top Literacy Statistics

Creating a Culture of Teacher Leadership

by Amy Brennan

The Impact of Teacher Leadership

Teacher leadership is an integral and often under recognized role in our schools. The leverage and impact that a teacher as a leader has on their local school community (not to mention the larger community) is powerful. Still –  so many people do not see the power that affects change and comes from within the teaching profession.

Often times, the informal roles that teacher leaders take on can have great impact because their colleagues listen and follow an unappointed, but natural leader. Sometimes it is the quiet action, sometimes it is the consistent action. Always being a professional and a learner, taking on challenges, showing up early, being there for others, sharing their work, opening their classroom door to share with colleagues, sharing reflective thoughts, speaking up at faculty meetings, and sharing ideas that work for the greater good – free of ego. Teachers have an incredible impact on the culture of a building as well as the greater educational community near and far. These informal roles, when nurtured have the potential to lead a culture of positivity in a school, creating a school where students are ultimately achieving more. We know from John Hattie’s research that collective teacher efficacy has the greatest effect size on student achievement. We cannot deny the impact that teacher leaders have on this idea that teachers collectively believe they impact student learning.

Teachers who take on an informal role can do that as a teaching partner, someone who others value and offers insight or a place for reflection. Teachers can help to support the shared vision across a school and by establishing different formal roles in addition to the informal roles can help to develop and nurture those who are inclined for leadership.

Great leaders create leaders

It is important to create an environment that grows and nurtures teachers as leaders. This starts by leaders with titles such as district leaders, building leaders, and literacy coaches modeling leadership behaviors. As the leadership behaviors are modeled it allows others to join in, perhaps in more informal and often times more impactful ways.

Great leaders identify, develop and nurture other leaders. They truly understand the message from Eleanor Roosevelt, “We do well when we all do well.”  It is simply no longer enough when we work alone, in our classroom silos. We need to work together in our schools and we need to find those teachers who have the passion to take on the challenge in teacher leadership. Once we can do this we can we rise together, stronger than before and then only then – we will have a greater collective impact on our students.

This is Day One #G2Great with Drew Dudley

By, Jenn Hayhurst

Whenever I sit down to write a blog post about one of our #G2Great chats, I spend a good deal of time in the archive. I read over the Wakelet, and reflect on the thinking each tweet reveals. I return again and again because they understand the challenges that teaching brings with it and they are so generous as they share their ideas and thinking freely. With each chat, I find that they have such smart things to say full of insight and wisdom. For these, and so many other reasons, I see my teacher colleagues as leaders, each and every one of them.

What values define leadership for you? If you had that power, which value would you choose? When it comes to leadership, these are the words our #G2Great PLN valued most.

I think of them all as leaders, yet if I were to ask if they regarded themselves as leaders, I bet many of them would say, “I’m just a teacher.” On February 7, 2019, #G2Great welcomed leadership guru, Drew Dudley. Drew, is the author of This is Day One A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters. We asked Drew, what his motivation was to write this book:

The book emerged from frustration to be honest. I was frustrated being surrounded by young, dynamic, compassionate and brilliant young people who weren’t comfortable calling themselves leaders. They were raising money to eradicate any number of diseases, dedicating hours upon hours fighting for social justice, sleeping outdoors in sub-zero temperatures to raise awareness of homelessness—yet they didn’t see themselves as leaders because the examples they had been given were all giants. They saw what they were doing as preparation for leadership It came to a head when I asked one of my most remarkable students “why do you matter?” His response? “I don’t yet…that’s why I’m working so hard.” That’s an unacceptable answer from anyone that you care about. However, it was the type of answer echoed by other student, professionals, even CEOs. I was shocked by how many people were living their lives driven by the idea that “I don’t matter yet…that’s why I’m working so hard.” People matter when they engage in acts of leadership, so I wrote the book to highlight a form of leadership to which everyone can and should aspire – one unrelated to money, power and influence. One that urges people to evaluate their leadership not over blocks of time, but on a daily basis. A form of leadership that can give people evidence that they matter every day. Recognizing that in the professional world most people don’t hold executive positions or positions that have traditionally been associated with leadership, I wanted to help people recognize that their leadership wasn’t tied to their salary or title, but to their daily behaviours. A fundamental premise of Day One leadership is that you, your principal, the superintendent, and the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies all woke up this morning having engaged in the exact same number of behaviours that deserve the title of “leadership”: none. That means we all have an opportunity and an obligation to live our own form of leadership every day.

Drew Dudley February 2019

As much as this is a book about leadership, it is a book about self-empowerment. Knowing that leadership is defined more by our actions and values than by our titles and salary. What we do matters, it matters maybe even more than we realize. This was a question that resonated with me, “Why do you matter” is the most difficult self-reflective question for people to answer. Why do you matter? Why should we ask students that question? This is what we said,

Every day is a fresh start. Every day can be “Day One” Day one begins with knowing why we matter. Knowing why we matter gives our lives a sense of meaning and purpose so we may live an authentic meaningful life. Isn’t that what schooling ought to prepare students to do? To live one’s life as their most powerfully authentic self. As I pause and ponder, I begin to wonder, What kind of experience am I creating for students? Am I teaching them to see themselves in this light? There are three important takeaways, Drew wants every teacher to consider:

There are three key things I’ll highlight that I feel are particularly relevant to teachers:

1. The people we choose to use as examples of leaders matter. If we keep our focus on “famous”, we cause our students to devalue the leadership they do demonstrate every day. As much as possible, focus on examples of leadership that aren’t famous, don’t hold positional titles, and. Ask students to identify the most impactful people in their lives, and keep the discussion around examples of leadership behaviours, rather than titles. Students see themselves capable of emulating behaviours, but many don’t see themselves as being able to acquire the positions and titles traditionally associated with leadership.

2. There are a lot of things that are “learned but never taught” in our classrooms that stand in the way of young people embracing their leadership. One of the big ones is that academic achievement is rewarded at a higher level than personal awareness and impact. Whenever possible, reinforce the idea that “I want you to make your grades extraordinary…I want you to work twice as hard to make sure they are the least impressive thing about you.” You can’t just say it though, you have to make sure that the reward structures in your schools actually reinforce that idea.   

3. Ask your students, “why do you matter?” Don’t let them wiggle out of answering, and don’t let them claim that they don’t.

Drew Dudley February 2019

Sometimes in life, you get excellent timing. Publishing this post the day before Valentine’s Day gives me an opportunity to send out this message of adoration for every teacher. You matter. You matter because you are shaping a child’s life every day you step into the classroom. You matter. You matter because all of our work and dedication is an investment in the future. You just have to do one important thing: believe it. Only you can make that choice to lean into leadership and get in touch with how powerful you really are. We asked Drew, to share a message about this book that comes from from the heart. A message for every teacher to keep in mind:

I want them all to remember that they drop depth charges.
One of the most exciting things about releasing a book is delivering a copy to every single English teacher you’ve ever had. The final one I delivered was to the most influential teacher in my life – a bittersweet meeting as he had been recently diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. During our visit I told him that many of the ideas in the book can be traced back to lessons and insights he had first planted.
“Ah yes, the depth charges” he responded.
He went on to explain that one of the most rewarding and frustrating things as a teacher was the fact that the most significant impact of his work was often deferred. It was often many years before students truly recognized the value of some of the lessons he tried to impart.
“You have to accept that what you’re doing is planting depth-charges in students’ minds,” he explained. “You can’t expect to see the results of your work right away – it could be years before something you said goes off in a student’s mind and helps them in some way. When I was first starting out as a teacher I would get so frustrated that students ‘just weren’t getting it’. I now realize they just weren’t getting it ‘yet’. Their life hadn’t needed that insight yet.”
There are very few professions that play a bigger role in how the next generation will understand and engage their leadership. However, the day-to-day reality of the job can often make you feel you’re having little impact. Remember you’re dropping depth-charges – you may never see the way your lessons change the worlds of your students, but they do.

Drew Dudley

These conversations about leadership, authenticity, and empowerment are the kinds of conversations educators need to have and need to have often. Thank you, Drew. Thank you for saying “Yes” and for joining us. You made an impact!

The Art of Comprehension: Exploring Visual Texts to Foster Comprehension, Conversation, and Confidence

by Mary Howard

Excitement was definitely in the #G2Great air on 1/31/19, when your co-moderators (MaryFranJenn, and Amy) welcomed our guest host and friend, Trevor Bryan, to the chat table. We have collectively cheered Trevor on from the moment we learned about his incredible thinking brainchild up to the celebration of the birth of his book this month, Art of Comprehension: Exploring Visual Texts to Foster Comprehension, Conversation, and Confidence (Stenhouse, 2019)

I was one of the lucky recipients of Trevor’s immense wisdom several years ago when he graciously immersed us in the Art of Comprehension (AoC) process in a step-by-step Voxer gathering of friends. From these early learning experiences, I could envision AoC coming to life in the pages of a book someday. Imagine my joy when ‘someday’ became a reality and Trevor asked me to write his foreword. The icing on the book cake was holding his beautiful book in my hands graced by a Peter H. Reynolds cover illustration.

With his book beside me, I turned to Trevor-inspired chat tweets, moving back and forth between the book and chat. It didn’t take long before the gifts Trevor wrapped neatly into a thoughtful comprehension design began to come into view. Writing a #G2Great chat reflection feels like an exploratory venture toward a sense of writerly direction and Trevor’s Five AoC Gifts felt like the perfect path for this post to travel.

AoC Gift #1: Redefining Our “Text” Lens 

Narrowly defined views of what constitutes “text” limit our perspective as well as the possibilities for meaningfully using those texts to engage readers of all ages and stages of reading. Trevor shows us that “text” can and should embrace images including photographs, drawings, paintings, artwork, and video. Each of these can inform thinking and thus support our efforts to promote understanding. Visual literacy is certainly a central feature of the AoC process, but Trevor includes words in print within this process including thoughtful connections between images and words. Trevor asks us not to think of The Art of Comprehension as a book about visual literacy but rather as “a book about literacy with an expanded view of what constitutes text” (p 4). This broader perspective widens the repertoire of text experiences we offer children using images and print, both individually or in unison.

AoC Gift #2: Supportive Visual Stepping Stones 

A key feature of the AoC process is the Access Lenses shown below and beautifully illustrated by Peter Reynolds (download The Access Lenses here). The Access Lenses, or what Trevor refers to as the Framework and Mood Structures, offer children a concrete visual reference designed to gently nudge thinking as students engage with images and begin learning how careful paying attention to mood can support understanding in ways that offer a visual stepping stone to meaning. This concrete tool is a reminder of the different ways that illustrators, artists and photographers help us notice and then name what we see as this noticing/naming process becomes a pathway to increasing understanding. The Access Lenses provide a temporary scaffold to think about the varied features that inform our thinking and then become talking points that deepen that thinking.

AoC Gift #3: Collective Comprehension Invitation 

The AoC process swings a comprehension door wide open so that we can invite our children to enter a supportive thinking space where all ideas are welcome. The open-ended, flexible design makes room for every child to engage in the experience with support, regardless of where they are in the reading process. Using visual texts as a springboard gives each child a seat at the thinking table where engaging, supportive dialogue beckons them as thought partners. In Trevor’s words, AoC “enables all learners, striving readers and nonreaders included, to join classroom conversations– building their confidence as well as community.” (p. 3) The comprehension framework Trevor has created readily supports high level thinking through visuals so that even children who cannot yet read the words yet can become active participants in meaningful, purposeful and yes, rigorous literacy experiences.

AoC Gift #4: Text Inspired Celebratory Conversations 

A powerful aspect of the AoC process is the ability to use the text to ignite and support conversations but then gradually fade that support as children collaborate with peers. Teacher-supported conversations set the stage for these collaborative conversations as we step aside and allow shared dialogue to take on a life of its own. This stepping back affords time and space for teachers to listen in on conversations in order to reinforce thinking while watching for signs where stepping back in may be needed. This step in–step out support dance is designed to encourage students to share their ideas as we keep our sights on opportunities to grow independence. This is not remotely akin to the one-size-fits all question interrogations that are commonplace when basal programs lead the way. Rather it leaves room for surprises that arise from student engaged thinking with time to celebrate that thinking in the company of others in a respectful environment.

AoC Gift #5: Joining of Educators in a Common Quest 

Toward the end of the chat, Trevor posted the tweet below. It struck me as something so pertinent to the AoC process, and yet a point that I had never really considered before. Trevor is an art teacher who saw the arts as a way to promote and support comprehension. Having been on the receiving end of this rich process through his supportive eye, it was easy for me to see how the art world and the literacy world can collide in joyful harmony. What I love about the thinking in this tweet is that Trevor takes this one step further by reminding us that the image-print merger not only helps us to comprehend texts in ways that heighten the meaning-making process but also heighten our awareness that those texts help us to comprehend our lives for ourselves and students. I love this joining of worlds that are not as different as I had once supposed. Yet Trevor saw these connections all along. Very wise man indeed.

With these gifts in mind, I asked Trevor to share his thinking about the AoC process by responding to three questions. His responses give us insight into how this book came to be.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

I had a rich, arts life growing up. They were a big part of my childhood experience and continued to have an impact all through my college years. Twenty years ago, I decided to enter into education with the belief that the arts were being underutilized and that they could and should be playing a more prominent role in the academic lives of students. However, upon starting my career as an art educator, I quickly realized that the tools I was taught to talk about art effectively, have almost zero impact on people who did not have a rich, arts background or at least a serious interest. After ten years of searching, I realized that entering artworks using reading comprehension skills produced more effective conversations around art and also created a simple, direct way for the arts to directly impact academic development that was more easily understood by my fellow educators who did not have a rich, arts background. More Importantly, through this work, I started to realize that my approach, explained in my book, was helping all learners to explore and share their unique voices. This work created an inclusive culture where every child was able to not only participate in classroom learning but they were able to meaningfully contribute. I hope that my book helps launch joyful exploration of and meaningful conversation around the works of art, books, plays, movies and other texts that students engage with regularly. The arts help us to comprehend and share our human experience, I hope my book helps to make this clearer.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

I hope that educators become more aware of the various forms of texts that demand the use of comprehension skills in order to make meaning of them. I hope they see that all of the arts truly are related and that there is a tremendous amount of overlap between them. I hope they see how all of the arts help us to explore and comprehend our own lives and whether we are writing, acting, singing, painting we can practice and utilize similar communication skills. And I also hope that teachers come to see the Access Lenses, the Framework and the Mood Structures as a simple foundation on which students can construct meaning regardless of the type of text they are exploring.

What is one message from the heart that you would like for every teacher to keep in mind based on your book?

My message from the heart would be that the arts foster joy and connection, even when and especially when times or topics are tough. Meaningful exploration of any form of art helps us to joyfully connect to our peers, our colleagues, our families and even to ourselves. The arts helps us to comprehend our human experience and share our human experience. Seems to me that both of these should be an integral part of a meaningful education.


We are so grateful to Trevor, for sharing his wisdom with our #G2great family. His commitment to the comprehension process through the AoC design shifts his focus beyond the lens of art teacher so that we could all envision a powerful instructional experience where every teacher can place a high priority on meaning making for every children. As I close this post, it seems appropriate to use Trevor’s opening words in his book as they are a reflection of this collective joining of the minds:

“If great books ae great works of art, then reading is a form of art appreciation and writing is a form of art creating. From this stance, literacy teachers are really art teachers without the smocks or carts or dirty, stained hands.”

Thank you for sharpening our view Trevor. And now, it’s time for teachers everywhere to get our hands dirty for kids!


The Art of Comprehension on Stenhouse

Trevor Bryan website: The Art of Comprehension