Donna Hendrix/Crossville Elementary School and Rosemary Adams/Crossville Middle School  (Team--Library Leaders)

Dekalb County Schools

Us with Steven Layne, author and keynote speaker

Brief Description of Proposed Fellowship: We would like to attend the Summer Literature Conference in Bellaire, Michigan on July 13-14, 2016. The keynote speakers, Tim Rasinski and Steven Layne will be presenting information and new ideas on how to help our students become well rounded readers. On July 13th, we will be hearing Tim Rasinski, a leading expert that has written numerous books and reading programs. He focuses on strategies to teach students word study, fluency and comprehension. On July 14th, the keynote speaker will be Steven Layne. He specializes in teaching librarians and teachers how to develop “a contagious love for books”. These speakers will equip us with learning strategies that we can use as we continue working towards having students that are not only fluent in reading, but have developed within themselves an intrinsic desire to read. In addition to other these sessions, we would like to attend the luncheon with the authors and illustrators of the promoted literature. We feel this would provide us a more intimate setting in which we can ask them pertinent questions that pertain to our personal library programs and the challenges we are facing.

Career Impact:
This experience had a significant impact on our careers. We found that it renewed our spirit and gave us a new enthusiasm for sharing our love of reading. Our mission was to seek out leading experts in our field for new and innovative methods on creating a passion for reading in our students. Attending the Michigan Reading Association Literature Conference gave us the opportunity to meet and learn from a wide array of authors, illustrators and fellow educators. As we collaborated with them, we found that while we are on the right track in most areas, there are still ways we can improve our teaching methods.

On the first day of the conference, we were able to gain valuable insights by attending several breakout sessions with leading experts. In one session, with Lois Letchford we learned how to use an inquiry based model to engage struggling readers. In working with predominantly Hispanic students in which English is their second language, it is important to give the students opportunities to learn language, learn about language, and learn through language so that basic decoding then makes more sense.

In another session, with Kristen Walter, a representative from Crayola, Inc. we discovered how art and literacy are closely linked together. She helped us to understand the parallels between words and illustrations. A lot can be learned by closely examining the illustrations in a book. For example, after looking at the pictures from the book Lon Po Po, we found that the illustrator uses the color red to convey warning or danger to the reader. We learned that although our students may not be able to read the text, they can still comprehend the story by gathering evidence from the illustrations.

One of the highlights of the conference was being able to listen to keynote speakers Dr. Timothy Rasinski, and Steven Layne. Dr. Rasinski deals with two specific factors that are related to learning how to read: phonics and fluency. He encouraged us to use poetry, song lyrics and rhymes to teach these skills. Steven Layne re-envisions read-alouds by delivering an unforgettable experience that leaves listeners of all ages engaged, teleported to another place and time, and begging for more. Best of all, he showed us the techniques to create the foundation for reading with expression and gave us the skills necessary to create those experiences for our students.
Classroom/Community Impact:
We have already noticed a shift in our thinking as we approach this new school year. By learning how to increase fluency, vocabulary, and motivating our students through read out-louds we are changing the atmosphere of our libraries. Students are more mindful in selecting their books, they are reading with an intended purpose, and they are branching out to explore books in other genres. Students have completed an interest inventory and are shown ways in which books can relate to areas that excite them. We have also paired up with teachers in our schools to help students create reading goals and a plan for achieving them. We will be monitoring the students' progress throughout the year.

This fellowship impacted our learning community in many ways. Although we have always had a good working relationship, this fellowship provided us the opportunity to grow closer and strengthen our communication. Because we serve at two different schools, it is imperative that we bridge the gap between the elementary and middle schools. We are assuring that skills and practices gained at the elementary school will be carried over and built upon in later years. It is our desire that as we implement these new techniques they become second nature to the students, and we instill in them a natural love of reading. 

The knowledge gained from our experience will also directly impact our colleagues in our teaching community. We intend to share the insights that we gained with not only the teachers in our respective schools, but also other librarians in our county. Our principals, have scheduled a time for us to meet with our reading teachers to show them specific techniques and resources that we gathered at the Literacy Conference. Through collaboration with them, we hope to implement these strategies not only in our library, but also in their classrooms as well. 
Open Response:
Just a few years ago, our schools were split in two. We were each given the opportunity to create our library programs with new books and emerging technologies. Because we have the largest ESL population in the state of Alabama, our students were not equipped with the skills or the desire to read books. Many of our families were struggling to meet their basic needs, and did not have the time or the resources to reinforce reading at home. Despite our best efforts, we were constantly faced with the same questions each day. Those questions were: How do we change students' attitudes towards reading, and how do we motivate students to want to read? No matter how hard we tried, we could not seem to find the answers.

This fellowship afforded us the opportunity to meet with other reading educators who had faced similar challenges. They helped encourage us to find new ways to overcome some of the obstacles we face. Realizing that we are not alone, we found hope in hearing other teachers talk about ways they were successful in overcoming situations much like ours. We learned so much in such a short amount of time. Not only were we given the tools and resources to use with our students and fellow teachers, but we came away with a new level of confidence that we had never experienced before. We returned from our trip with a renewed passion for teaching and new focus on what is important to us. We are committed to creating positive reading experiences for our students that will motivate them to pursue reading as a lifelong activity. 
"For every student that enters our library doors, we will be the match that ignites their passion for reading."
Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2017, 10:39 AM