Reimagining Teaching as We Lead Literate Lives
Reviewed by Kathleen Palmieri
When I learned that Stephanie Affinito had written a second book, Leading Literate Lives, I knew I had to get a copy.
I have followed Stephanie on social media and had the privilege of being part of some of her professional development offerings. When she wrote her first book, Literacy Coaching: Transforming Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools and Technology, I eagerly read it and wrote a review.
While her first book was written for literacy coaches, Leading Literate Lives is a book that invites every educator and all those who strive to develop a richer reading and writing life to read and explore.
This book is not simply an instructional text providing a framework for teaching reading and writing. This book encompasses the power of reflection, the importance of our own experiences, and our personal history as readers and writers.
Affinito believes what we recall as readers and writers may impact what we do instructionally in our classrooms. “Intentional reflection around our own histories and lived experiences as learners is essential if we are going to uncover the why behind our practices and acknowledge the role our experiences play in our classrooms.” (page 3).
Our reading lives
The main theme of reflection begins to weave its thread in the first main section of the book, “Reading.” Within this section, Affinito asks us to “Honor our reading hearts” and provides many activities to help us delve into exploring our sense of self.
She encourages us to keep a reading notebook nearby to record thoughts and goals and to “jot and sketch” as you read. Along with the notebook, we are asked to consider making reading visible by using markers, colored pencils, and pens to “help capture feelings and thoughts”. (page 44).
Affinito includes useful resources such as the Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction Chart (page 47) and a Digital Quote Collector by creating a photo album on your phone to name a few. As Affinito writes, “I snap pictures of compelling pages as I read and save them for later reflection, often adding them to my notebook.” (page 48).
Affinito shares the importance of surrounding ourselves with books and the beauty of building “To Be Read Stacks” otherwise known as “TBR.” She encourages us to make our reading lives visible, noting the important role that social media can play in bringing like-minded readers together to share titles that introduce new authors and offer hashtags to readerly groups.
Affinito offers specific advice and ideas on how to use Twitter to build lists and connect with authors and illustrators, and includes Instagram handles to publishers, authors, and fellow book lovers (to name a few).
Our writing life
Her thread of reflection continues into the second main section, “Writing.” Affinito began by helping us explore our reading habits and the need to make daily time to read. Here she guides us into taking a close look at our writing lives. Encouraging us to create a writing habit, Affinito explains, “You (soon) begin to experience the benefits, making it easier to stay on track.” (page 89)
Notebooks once again play an important role in helping us reflect upon and identify key elements of a writing life. Affinito writes, “A writer’s notebook is an indispensable tool for living a writerly life. It is a space to capture your thinking, collect observations and ideas, and plant seeds for future writing pieces.” (page 91)
This section of the book becomes a great resource on how to start a writer’s notebook with explanations on the different types, formats, and how to personalize your notebook. Each chapter offers wonderful illustrations, pictures, and activities to help create a reading and writing habit, as well as ways to build an environment that engages and promotes deep reflection and creative ideas.
In addition, the section “Here’s How to Bring It to the Classroom” offers great ideas and suggestions for sharing our reading and writing lives with our students and for inviting them to do the same. Affinito encourages us as readers to talk with our students and make “So What are you reading?” our mantra with them. (page 74) As writers who teach, she says,
“The important thing is to take the lessons you have learned about your own writing life and use them to make authentic changes in your classroom. When we remove ourselves from the process of writing and simply become teachers of writing, we forget how powerful, invigorating, frustrating, scary, and exhilarating writing can be. But when we live as writers, we understand firsthand what our students are experiencing. Working with students as fellow writers, and not as teachers with the right answer, we form powerful learning communities that grow in writing together.” (page 148)
In Leading Literate Lives Stephanie Affinito brings together the importance of reflection and the need to examine our classroom practices. This book provides a framework for celebrating our reading and writing lives while providing ways to help our students develop a daily habit for reading and writing.
Affinito has presented the reader with “…a framework for tending to your literate identity and explore how to nourish your literate habits, hearts and communities and sustain them over time” (xv).
Additional resources, as well as a “Guide For Extending the Invitations,” are offered on the Heinemann website. The guide is a great companion to use as you read and explore and begin to relish Leading Literate Lives.
Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher and NBCT Professional Learning facilitator. She is a fifth grade educator in upstate New York who reviews and writes regularly for MiddleWeb. With a passion for literacy and learning in the classroom, she participates in various writing workshops, curriculum writing endeavors, and math presentations. As a lifelong learner, Kathie is an avid reader and researcher of educational practices and techniques. Collaborating with colleagues and globally on Twitter @Kathie042500 and writing about her education adventures at www.kathleenpalmieri.com are among her ongoing practices.