September 14

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Building Each Other Up Makes the World (and our Reading and Writing) so Much Better by Theodora (Lolly) Salazar

As if I needed any more evidence of authors’ support for each other, I had the pleasure of reading some Twitter posts with pictures of Laurie Halse Anderson listening intently from the balcony as Jason Reynolds addressed an audience at this year’s Nerd Camp in Michigan!  In our society these days, we see such a need for supporting each other, building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

 

I was actually moved to write this blog post entry as I attended the San Antonio Book Festival in April of this year. I was in the audience mesmerized by Meg Medina speaking about her writing, and as I looked around, I saw Laurie Halse Anderson in the audience focused on Ms. Medina’s talk. I thought to myself, “Isn’t that cool to see how these amazing authors show up for each other’s talks, presentations, etc.?”  This was not the first time I had experienced this feeling. I have been fortunate to attend the International Reading Association (now International Literacy Association), and National Council of English Teachers Conferences during my career. During these conferences, I have been able to witness different authors and researchers sitting in each other’s sessions. What strikes me as powerful is that many of these authors’ egos are not out of touch to where they do not think they can learn from other authors, or that they are in competition with them. Reading social media encouragements (for example, Twitter posts) from one author to another (so many, I could not list them all) as a book is released, when they voice their opinions about topics in the writing world, or when they share writing advice with readers/writers makes my respect for them grow exponentially. I have witnessed panels of authors and illustrators discussing their work and belonging to peer reader groups. They offer support to each other as ideas come to them and even when they need a nudge.

 

So what does this have to do with students? I believe that it would be empowering them to see these exchanges between authors, so that they can see how adults conduct themselves when listening to or reading someone’s work. Students can learn that they, too, can encourage each other within their classroom writing community and beyond. We ask students to do this on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be great to have “real world” examples of this? Examples of what we are asking them to do would certainly help them understand what it means to be a community that supports and encourages its members. Imagine students writing encouraging notes or comments not just to their classmates, but friends beyond the walls of their classrooms and schools. Friends who may be found around the world who seek out help in either their reading or writing. I believe that the conversations and dialogue that can be generated would give children opportunities to practice the characteristics that we hope many of them will possess as they develop into the compassionate, caring, and responsible readers and writers we guide them to be.

 

Something else that has impressed me is authors sharing via social media when they have writers’ block or when they become distracted by anything and everything as they are in the midst of a WIP (work in progress). They certainly show their vulnerability and that is influential for students to learn about and internalize. Often times students feel like they have to get things right the first time through or that writing or reading should come so easy. If teachers share stories about authors and their reading and writing lives, students will begin to settle in to the understanding that literacy does not just happen overnight. This could definitely help all of us strive to become better every day.

 

With many authors so visible on social media, it seems like they are so much more accessible to answer quick inquiries students have. They may not always have the time to respond, but there are some who can. It definitely puts a different spin on the author letters sent to the publisher’s office and the form letter that they sign. While there is nothing wrong with that, it is just a little more meaningful to receive a response in a shorter amount of time. These incredible authors and illustrators continue to build up readers and writers. We are most in need of that these days.

 

Theodora (Lolly) Salazar has been teaching since 1990. She is currently an Academic Technology Instructional Specialist in San Antonio, Texas. She loves to read and write and likes to encourage others to do the same. Having a conversation about books brings her so much joy. If you engage in a conversation with her, you had better have a little time to do so. You can find her on Twitter sharing her #bookaday posts during the summer @SalazarLolly.