be_ixf;ym_202407 d_16; ct_50 YES! I want to make a difference TODAY!

Igniting Passion for Literacy: Reflecting on International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day is celebrated each year on September 8 to promote literacy’s importance on the personal and community level. The holiday was declared by UNESCO in 1966 and first celebrated in 1967. This year, as I think about my work with students in the Little Rock School District and my experience with literacy and reading, I am empowered and motivated to keep up the work to fill in the gaps. Literacy is at the heart of what we do, and it’s days like today that ignite the passion and drive needed to create change within our community. 

I remember my first experience reading when the world fell away, and I truly fell in love with reading. I was in second grade and reading Heidi, the book I had checked out from my library that week, with my mom one morning before school. We were at a coffee shop my mom often stopped at before dropping me off and going to work. I vividly remember imagining the sloping green hills and how I could practically feel the fluffy grass beneath my feet and taste the bread her grandfather served her for dinner. I remember the slightly jarring feeling of being brought back into the bustling coffee shop from the peaceful scenery of my book. There was no going back from there. I became addicted to those moments of escape through the different worlds books offered me. I fell so in love with it that I majored in it in college.   

Now, into my service, I worry that my students, who are full of untapped genius and brilliant imaginations, have not been given the opportunity to experience the amazing different worlds and universes that are offered through reading and writing. The ability to read and write at its fundamental level is empowerment, something each student deserves. Literacy is such a huge part of our work in the schools, as many of our students are truly struggling with fluency and comprehension, which affects their literacy scores, understanding of math, and social-emotional skills. However, these kids – much like I did at that age – have a thirst for understanding and learning. Despite the many invisible and visible challenges that these students face in their homes, schools, and communities – they are showing up with a desire to learn.  

Through all of this reflection, I can reimagine what my relationship with literacy will be this year as an educator. I am impassioned to help students discover their version of Heidi and find within themselves the genius I can see in them. So, this International Literacy Day, I urge everyone to reflect on their journey with literacy and education and what they want their relationship with those things to look like today. Furthermore, I want to emphasize what this day is about: learning and loving to read and write! So, go out and find YOUR favorite childhood book to read to a student, a family member, a friend, or just for yourself!  

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