So You Think You're Alone...

An image of faculty discussing reading, standing in a conference room.How do I get my principal on board? What do I do when a colleague just doesn’t “get it?” When it seems as if no one else sees the value in promoting a reading culture, you may feel like you’re all alone. What’s an educator to do?
In my previous posts, I have suggested pulling your administrator along, giving that dedicated instructional leader the opportunity to see firsthand the magic that happens when kids connect with a book. Doing so provides your principal with a foolproof win—one that does not require any prep or time, just outcomes. I still profess that reducing the amount of time that the administrator has to spend putting the information/event together will increase the likelihood that the administrator participates. It is not that the administrator does not care, or value the benefits a reading culture brings, but that so many other responsibilities prevent him/her from giving that reading culture the attention that it requires and deserves. Your commitment and ideas will ensure that your instructional leader can fully participate and become a committed partner in a literacy culture quest.
Unfortunately, there are no flawless ways of seeing this accomplished—no quick fixes for building this book-inspired world—but there are a few practices that will surely engage your school leader and your colleagues. For instance:

  • After you greet your students and/or colleague, ask “What are you reading?” It may feel a little awkward at first, but it works! Firstly, it invites conversation about a book. Secondly, it communicates what you value and what is important to you. If your colleague says he/she hasn’t read anything good lately – have a book in hand that you can share! Something short with a powerful message can do the trick. A book like What To Do With A Problem by Kobi Yamada or Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds will get any colleague ready to share the book with someone else when he/she finishes, as well as asking you for another recommendation shortly thereafter.
  • Take the show on the road. Secure five minutes of faculty meeting time from your administrator for a "Book Share." If your administrator has too much to share with the staff and time is therefore limited, that’s okay. See if you can instead secure the time spent when the faculty members first gather in the designated meeting space. Take pictures of your favorite book titles—grab a line or two from the book, and give it a rating. Your colleagues will frantically record as many as they can before the meeting begins!
  • Sneak preview! Another way to use the time when the faculty gathers, just before a faculty or department meeting, in order to share the love of books is by projecting book trailers on the big screen. Book trailers can be secured from Scholastic Book Fairs. An additional resource is Jennifer Lagarde, better known as LibraryGirl on Twitter. She shares a collection of book videos that can be comfortably shared with students and colleagues.

A group of students and faculty at a reading event.These suggestions can help you acquire book champions within your book-building community, so that you are no longer alone with the four walls you occupy during your workday. And there are also book-building communities that you can learn with from the comfort of your favorite place, which has been termed as Pajama Professional Development (PJPD). You have heard of these tools before, but now is the time to put them to use:

  • Voxer – This asynchronous application allows you to listen to messages shared by others in the group you’re a part of, or to leave a message for those who share the same interests as you. This communication program is as powerful as the people who participate in the group. Visit this website created by Cybraryman to see groups that currently exist and who you can contact to join the group.
  • Twitter – This social media tool contains a treasure trove of hashtags that will lead you to suggestions for your classroom, ideas that will help you build your school literacy culture, or thoughts on just about anything that comes to mind. Not sure where to start? Here is a starter list, with a few handles and hashtags to help you begin. Each post, I will feature a few more handles and hashtags for you to consider. For now, take a look at these:


  Who/What? Why?
  Brad Gustafson –
This Elementary Literacy Leader has a litany of amazing ideas that you can incorporate into your classroom/culture.
Pernille Ripp –
A Middle School ELA teacher shares practices and ponders effective ways to incorporate authentic literacy practices.
John Schu –
The Librarian Ambassador shares titles and book covers that will amaze you.
  #LeadLAP Ideas you can use immediately. The tweets here share work based on the Lead LAP book series.
#NCTE Book recommendations of all kind and reflections from conference attendees.
#ReadingSummit Another fascinating collection of conference reflections and ideas, from participants who attended Scholastic’s Reading Summit, that will keep you growing

Research the hundreds of groups that have been formed and select the ones that peak your interest. I would suggest starting with three to see the pacing of the chat, and if it meets your needs, before adding others. Consider taking a peek at the Edumatch group, or SATchat.
Whichever forum and practices you choose to try, you’ll find educators who share your passion and commitment for creating a literacy-focused community. You’ll see that you’re not alone!