JoEllen McCarthy joined our #g2great chat last week to share a “heart-start” for participants from her new book, Layers of Learning: Using Read-Alouds to Connect Literacy and Caring Conversations.
Sixty minute Twitter chats are never long enough to explore an author’s published work, but JoEllen McCarthy shared a number of memorable tweets during that hour that allow us, as educators, insight into her commitment to book choices that resonate with students. You can view the entire chat here.
I hope you’ll do yourself a favor and read personal thoughts from JoEllen on writing Layers of Learning; what she hopes teachers will take to heart as they read, and how she believes that kids and book/heart connections can go far beyond the classroom.
1) What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?
Over the years I have spent many hours and many dollars searching for books that help lift the level of our conversations with kids. It is always exciting to explore the craft lessons in books, but more importantly, I believe sharing powerful stories can connect us to one another, help strengthen our relationships, acknowledge our differences, and encourage us to be caring members of our learning communities. This is why I wrote Layers of Learning to explore the ways we can layer reading, writing, and life lessons.
What a powerful thought–that books can be co-teachers that facilitate discussions leading to empathy, compassion, and commitment to celebrating diversity for students and teachers. JoEllen’s passion for using thoughtfully selected books that knit hearts together is beyond inspiring. This labor of love, Layers of Learning, is exactly what’s needed as teachers learn from JoEllen how to artfully “layer” texts with authentic life lessons.
2) What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices? ****
It is my hope that the texts and connections will invite teachers to extend the possibilities that balance academic and social-emotional growth in order to reach the whole child and the whole community. Part one shares a framework for thinking about the ways we can use read alouds to spark student-led conversations and discussion possibilities for Life Layers. The connections (additional texts, Ted Talks, professional resources and more) paired with literacy snapshots illustrate messages of authentic, student centered work, at the same time, expand the possibilities to extend the conversation beyond the books.
One big take away: We need to think beyond book lists. More important than the texts we choose is the line of thinking around our choice.
JoEllen shares in her book additional tools to promote deep thinking and reflection about texts and their indelible connection to our lives. Additional texts, media, multiple modalities that partner with books to allow deeper, more complex thinking are included in Layers of Learning. Kids need opportunities in their learning day to safely practice issues of life through discussion, reflection, writing. A stage, if you will, where they can comfortably act out concerns, relationships and everyday matters of life.
3) What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?
Books just BEGIN the conversations… through stories, we can honor our students’ identity, community, culture, traditions, and values and—through those stories—encourage habits of acceptance, appreciation, and respect as we learn more about ourselves, others, and our world.
JoEllen’s book could not have come at a better time. With the upheaval of every day life in this pandemic, the fight for disenfranchised people to be allowed a voice, a desire by many to unite the people in our country, JoEllen’s “heartwork” is sorely needed in today’s classrooms.
Now, thanks to JoEllen, we can do this. We can take inspiration and practical moves from Layers of Learning to facilitate discussions around great books as the impetus for thoughtful, intentional change.