Global Literacy Communities: Teacher Book Clubs and Global Explorations
Global Literacy Communities are small groups of educators who engage in professional inquiry on building international understanding through global children’s and adolescent literature. These communities meet regularly to explore global literature and ways of using these books in K-12 classroom contexts. The communities may be school-based, district-based, community-based, or university/school collaborations, but they share a commitment to thinking together as a professional learning community as well as transforming their practice.
In 2011-2012, twelve Global Literacy Communities received grants from Worlds of Words to support their work and to encourage their explorations of innovative practices. Community members also participated in an online forum where they could share their explorations and support each other across the different groups. In turn, each literacy community has written at least one vignette for WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom. Over the next several months, we will publish these vignettes in several issues of the journal. This effort by Worlds of Words was supported by the Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding, an organization that has been helping young people in the United States learn about world regions and global issues since 1966.
This issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom focuses on two Global Literacy Communities that took the form of book groups—groups of teachers and teacher educators who meet once a month on a Saturday morning to talk about literature. The two groups, one on Long Island in New York and the other in Columbia, Missouri, consisted of educators from a range of school and university contexts, who decided to focus their reading on global literature.
The Teacher Talk/TALL (Teachers Applying Language and Literacy) group is a University-based inquiry group for teachers who have been or are involved with the Literacy Studies program at Hofstra University. The group ranges from early childhood, elementary, middle school, and high school and includes classroom teachers, an ESL teacher, English teachers, literacy specialists, a University reading clinic director, and teacher educators. The group uses a blog and Skype to connect with a member who is a district literacy specialist in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The goal of this group was to read a wide range of global literature and to encourage children to think about the world beyond their cultural boundaries. The group read and discussed books in their monthly meetings, with a major focus on Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (2012). They each brought the literature and new understandings from these meetings back to their classrooms to develop a specific literacy event around global literature with students. These literacy events are the focus of each person’s short vignette within the larger group vignette.
The Saturday Book Group Literacy Community is a community-based group that consists of K-8 classroom teachers and professors from mid-Missouri, who are also members of Teachers Applying Whole Language. The Saturday Book Group meets once or twice a month on Saturday mornings to examine new books, plan engagements with children, and write reviews of good titles to share with group members and other teachers. The group decided to focus on newcomer global cultures for students in their schools. They put together text sets for five cultural groups—Cuba, Pacific Islands, Russia, Somalia, and Myanamar/Burma—and spent their group meetings sharing books with each other and working on packets. These packets for each of the five cultures contain an annotated book list, suggestions for integrated activities, a fiction and nonfiction lesson plan for two books, and a brief fact sheet. These packets and sets of books were used in local classrooms and loaned to interested teachers. Their vignette includes short vignettes written by group members about classroom experiences as well as a description of their process as a group. The packets of books, lesson plans, and information on the five global cultures are available as downloads in their vignette.
Our next issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom will focus on vignettes from other Global Literacy Communities. We will have an unthemed issue in the spring of 2013. Think about how you connect students of all ages with literature in ways that promote intercultural understandings. Consider sharing your innovative practices by submitting a vignette to WOW Stories. We are interested in descriptions of interactions with literature in classrooms and libraries at preschool through graduate levels. See our call for manuscripts and author guidelines for more information.
Kathy G. Short, Director of Worlds of Words