Building stronger families and stronger communities: Be a Reader

What are the habits of an effective educator? In the Stronger Families, Stronger Communities blog series, the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) has explored this question with the past winners of the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year (TOY) Award. These educators have shared habits that have improved their practice and enriched the lives of the families with whom they work. However, one habit was more than a common practice. Teachers described it as a passion. Reading.

Many of the award-winning teachers talked about their personal love of reading. Katy Kibbey of Michigan (TOY 2008) connected her personal reading to her professional learning. She shared that she uses reading as a way to evolve as a professional and leader. “I read and stay abreast of the field and am always on the lookout for new approaches, ways to adapt and to ultimately do better. I recognize that while my roles and responsibilities have taken me out of the front lines, I still have a unique opportunity to add value to the mission of family literacy.” 

Other teachers were ardent about transferring their love of reading to children. They talked about guiding young children on the path to becoming readers. Karen Klima-Thomas of Arizona (TOY 1997) told us “I read, read, read. I have always read, read, read. There is nothing that will serve a child better than growing a joy of reading.” Similarly, Jody Lintzenich of Tennessee (TOY 2003) appreciates the value in teaching children to read. She believes that it is a way to pay it forward. “Once children can read, they can do anything,” she said. “For example, a little first grader I worked with in class and literacy just graduated from college last year with a degree in special education. She will in turn be teaching children. Inspiring children to be all that they can be is ‘paying it forward’ because they, in turn, will do that for someone else.”

Other teachers moved beyond learning to read and reading to learn. Kay Brown of Louisiana (TOY 2010) focuses her passion for reading on access to books. She is known as the “Louisiana Book Fairy” for her work in distributing millions of books to children and families. She said one of her greatest pleasures is introducing and sharing books with children and their parents. Kay said, “I can see children’s desperation turn to joy.” 

Like Kay, other teachers also acknowledged their belief that reading should be a family affair. Dayle Bailey of North Carolina (TOY 1999) said, “I love, love, love to read, and I tried to pass along this love of reading to my family, my friends, and the families I worked with. I love it when reading becomes a fun, interactive, intergenerational event.”  NCFL’s traditional family literacy programs have capitalized on the indispensable power of intergenerational literacy – of children and their parents enjoying books and literacy-based activities together. 

Reading might be the most powerful habit of all. It is essential to our work as educators. Teachers serve as models. They share their love of books and reading with their students, their families, and their colleagues. At the same time, educators also guide children and adults on the pathway to becoming readers. They also share with families the power of reading together.

From teacher to teacher – read and share your love of books and reading with others.

What are you currently reading? Share titles of books and articles that you are reading for pleasure or for professional learning in the comments below. One person who comments will be selected to receive a copy of NCFL’s book Stronger Families, Stronger Communities.

This blog is the final edition of a yearlong series focused on the habits of past winners of the Toyota Family Teacher of the Year Award. Visit NCFL’s newly designed website to read the entire Stronger Families, Stronger Communities series.