Leading and Learning With Book Love

by Bilal Polson, principal at Northern Parkway School.
In Penny Kittle’s Book Love (Heinemann, 2013) we were given a call to arms. It is a battle worth fighting for our children! To create the space, time and resources for this love, as a school community at Northern Parkway we are committed to three character pillars: respect, responsibility and caring. The literacy vision and culture of the school starts with the leader’s belief system, which influences and fuels the practices and relationships of the learning community (Senge, 2006).
It takes more than just a love of books to impact a school’s literacy vision and culture. We have an obligation to honor and respect our students as readers of the world. We have a responsibility to recognize our students’ reading lives at home and school. We have to care about creating an environment where students are choosing books, given books, and books are available based on identity, personality, family, culture, or interest (Friere, 1970; Tatum, 2009; Kittle, 2013).
As a school community, we honor the language, culture and history of all of our students and their families. We believe in the workshop model as a mindset and a method of teaching. It’s a habit of mind to view reading and writing workshop from an authentic place of teaching and not a programmatic place. Our school fosters opportunities for teaching and learning to advocate for the social justice of people who are underserved to assure equity for all. There’s an interconnectedness of practices supporting culturally relevant teaching and learning through workshop experiences (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Murray, 1970; Atwell, 1987). There’s a collective responsibility to connect learning to advocacy. We honor community as having a stake in the wellbeing of others in all aspects of our learning—whether it is in reading, writing or art, we want our students to use their voices to create change.

One example, from recent lesson with art teacher Erik Sumner.  We explored Alain Serres, I Have a Right to Be A Child and layered in exploration of art by “artist, agitator and intellectual,” Favianna Rodriguez. Students created their own pieces to speak out against injustices.

I Have the Right to Be a Child
Written by Alain Serres with illustrations by Fronty and Mixter
We believe in the power of books.  When we invest in books, we are investing in kids. Kwame Alexander stated during his Newbery acceptance speech (2015), “ Books… are actual doors to life of sustainability and success, to our lives, and each of us has a responsibility to walk through them.” We use stories to wholeheartedly engage our students to cultivate an inviting and inclusive community that celebrates individual lives and learning as lifework.

Being You
Written by Alex Pate and illustrated by Soud
We believe in fostering independence and autonomy. Because when we treat all learners as unique individuals we invite equity and excellence for all. Real reading creates real readers. We believe in allowing students to choose books, encouraging the excitement of book love and allowing them time to be with their books. Torrey Maldonado professed, “Readers hunger to hold onto togetherness, a need for validation and a space to feel things, and a desire to work through issues with others in ways that leaves us strengthened.”

Written by Torrey Maldonado
We believe in monitoring students’ reading with a loving eye and knowing when to be a warm demander. Lisa Delpit (2016) explained that “Warm demanders are teachers who expect a great deal from their students, convince them of their brilliance, and help them to reach their potential in a disciplined and structured environment.”

 I Am Enough
Written by Grace Byars and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
We believe everyone—students, teachers and administrators—must view themselves as learners. We believe in ongoing professional development time, learning side by side with teachers and students, from teachers and students.  Because all schools are made of dynamic, sophisticated, complex individuals. Gloria Ladson Billings (1995) defined culturally relevant teaching as, “A pedagogy of opposition (1992) not unlike critical pedagogy (Friere, 1970) but specifically committed to collective, not merely individual, empowerment.”

It Takes a Village  
Written by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Marla Frazee
At Northern Parkway, we believe book love has ripples. Books help nurture voice and choice for our students, for our classes, for our community. We will continue to learn together. 
Bilal Polson is the principal at Northern Parkway School, a Pre-K–5 elementary school in the Uniondale School District.
Twitter - @BilalPolson
Email - bpolson@uniondaleschools.org

At Northern Parkway School we are leading and learning with love as a leadership team that includes principal, Bilal Polson, assistant principals, Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac, Iraida Bodre and staff developer in residence, JoEllen McCarthy. We celebrate all learners as active members of a schoolwide learning community. Follow @northernparkway where #LearningIsJoyful.
Bilal and JoEllen McCarthy will be talking more about Books for Building CommUNITY at NCTE in a Build Your Stack Session on Saturday November 17, 2018 at 12:30 in Houston.  Follow along via #NCTE18 or #BuildYourStack for more book love.