#OrlandoStrong by Anne Lee



I find myself on a plane on a day of another national tragedy. In 2001,  I was on an early flight from Orlando to New York which circled the Twin Towers trying to land in LaGuardia while one tower smoked in the distance, just hours later to fall.


This time it took place in my home town of Orlando.


Like the rest of the world,  I sit in shock and disbelief wondering  how we have come to this? To a time when a person can walk into a place and end the lives of so many, seemingly so easily. Such a senseless act of anger and cowardice.


I have worried constantly over the last year watching the people running for president pontificate while 25 percent of our children live in abject poverty and many will not graduate from high school due to illiteracy.


I worry about how back door politics can allow legislation like HB2 to sneak through while it seems many of us are in shock and somehow paralyzed not knowing what to do.


I worry about how someone running for President can spew hate on Muslims, Mexicans, women and anyone who disagrees with him and emerge seemingly stronger while we still seem to watch in shock as if in a bad dream. As one group is attacked, so are all of us.


When the rights of targeted groups are threatened and removed, all our freedoms are threatened.


I worry how I will explain to my ten year old daughter how a man who doesn’t display the basics of common decency that we were taught in kindergarten became President. I think about how I can reverse this trajectory while there is still time.


There are many things that don’t make sense to me but several things are crystal clear.


Educators are my heroes. They roll up their sleeves each and every day and believe in our kids. They give out tissues, hugs, and books.


With each book we give to a child we increase the possibility that they will fall in love with reading. A reader can see themselves in the stories they read and even more importantly see others, understand others and grow with empathy.


The research of many (Krashen, Allington, Atwell, Miller) has proven the power of access to authentic texts, of student choice to select what they want to read, and the importance of independent reading time at school and home and yet we still debate these fundamentals.


Let’s do what we can to support those teachers and principals who are working so hard to teach our children.  Stop the politics as usual and replace that with common sense.


As my plane lands, I pray we can unify and stand up for the most important things while sharing our love and acceptance of each other.


**Editors’ Note: If you are attending the American Library Association Conference in Orlando this week, please visit ALA’s Orlando Support Activities page for a list of activities and resources to get involved in support efforts.


Anne Lee has worked in the education, children’s publishing, non-profit, and bookselling arenas for over 25 years.  In her positions, she is responsible for developing outreach programs for school principals, teachers, families and students.  She is an advocate for independent reading and believes in the power of one book to change a life and inspire a life-long love of reading.  Anne has served  on a variety of non-profit boards and literacy advisory councils including LitWorld, NAESP, First Book, and the Early Learning Coalition of Orlando.  She is honored to serve as a LitWorld Advisory Council member and to lobby for the global rights of all children to be literate and develop a love of reading. Her opinions are her own.