Today is a good day. A very good, unbelievable, terrific kind of day. Why? Because I have just had the amazing opportunity to reflect on my participation in The Global Read Aloud 2016 with my graduate students. I am inspired, proud, joyful and brimming with excitement for the lessons participation in the project has taught us.
The Global Read Aloud is a global literacy event designed to connect the world through a single book. Pernille Ripp launched the event in 2010 with a single premise: choose a book to read aloud with your class and make as many global connections as possible. I first heard of this project last year and was hooked. I enthusiastically participated with my own class this year, but with a much different stance than most. My ‘class’ was not a classroom of third, fourth or fifth grade students, but a classroom of graduate literacy education students taking a course in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. I wanted my graduate students to experience the power of this event for themselves, to truly understand what is means to connect with other teachers and classrooms around the world in pursuit of authentic literacy learning, a lesson that they could then take to their own classrooms.
How did we do it? I created a ‘kick off’ presentation to introduce the idea of #GRA16 to them and detail how we might participate as a class. While many were admittedly hesitant about the experience, they eagerly began participating according to their own comfort levels with technology and their access to classrooms. Some read Pax with their own children, some read the book with their class and others read the book on their own, but thinking about how they might engage in #GRA with their future students. As I sat here this morning and reflected on our participation in the project, I am overwhelmed and overjoyed at what we have learned and how we have influenced the learning of others.
I strongly believe that if we want students to view literacy as something that is meaningful, authentic and powerful to their own lives, then we must first transform teachers’ views of literacy and how they enact literacy in their classrooms. Our ultimate goal as literacy teachers is not just to teach students how to read, not just to teach students how to read to learn, but to teach students that literacy can change their lives. But before we can do that, we must remind teachers of the power they hold to shape a child’s literate identity and the trajectory of their reading lives. Participating in such a powerful project themselves has helped illuminate this very important concept first-hand.
In their reflections, my students reported the many ways they participated in the project: Facebook, Padlet, Write About, Audio Recordings, Pen Pals, Edmodo, Twitter and more. But beyond the tools, they shared about the amazing ways they used them and for what purpose: to connect with other teachers, to gain first-hand insights about today’s classrooms, to learn about what it truly means to deeply understand a text and become a reader and most importantly, to realize the power they had to make a difference in the learning of other teachers and their students. These lessons cannot be taught through readings and assignments only, they must be lived and experienced. The Global Read Aloud has made this kind of powerful learning possible, not just for students around the world, but for teachers around the world as well. Teachers who now see just how connected and empowered we can feel from uniting over a single book and opening our minds to new possibilities of working with and learning from each other.
Thank you, Pernille Ripp, for a truly transformative experience. I urge other teacher educators to take part in #GRA17, even if you initially think there may not be a place for you and your adult students in it. Challenge your own ideas for using technology to transform teacher learning and introduce your students to the power of this level of collaboration. Become something bigger together than you could have accomplished alone. Imagine the future learners that we will impact by simply inviting teachers into this amazing initiative early into their careers. I am happy to share my own experiences and connect together to help bring this powerful experience to even more future teachers. Let’s connect!