Arizona Education Association

Spring 2018

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SPRING 2018 | ADVOCATE 15 Gene Luen Yang told the gathered students to always try new things, and to keep trying. He told them about his "Reading Without Walls" challenge, which encourages students to "read a book about a character who doesn't look like you or live like you, read a book about a topic you don't know much about, and read a book in a format that you don't normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book." "Our students need to see themselves in what they're reading," says Judy Marable, a reading specialist who came with her students from Flintstone Elementary in Oxon Hill. "When they see themselves in the characters, or in the authors, they realize they can have different careers, lifestyles, and adventures – that everything is open to them, not just to some. Books open their eyes and their worlds." Books have opened the eyes of Madison Bartley, a third grader at Paint Branch Elementary School in College Park, Maryland. She says she loves reading, and her current favorite is the Dog Man comic book series by Dav Pilkey about a "crime biting" canine. "I like the books because they are comics and because Dog Man explores the world," Bartley says. The students divided up into groups for a series of reading and writing activities led by volunteers and local authors, like Leah Henderson, who wrote One Shadow on the Wall, a middle grade book set in contemporary Senegal that focuses on family, unexpected friendships, courage, and creating your own future. "This is a wonderful opportunity for me to interact with students and share our enthusiasm for books, especially diverse books," Henderson says. "We're fortunate now that there's much more diversity in children's literature. Now, rather than just one book where students might see themselves, there are four or more books to choose from. It increases self-esteem and courage when you see characters who look like you, and also helps encourage a love of reading." NEA and Reading is Fundamental (RIF) co-sponsored the Read Across America event to celebrate Dr. Seuss' 114th birthday. An estimated 45 million educators, parents, and students will participate today and tomorrow in events nationwide. In Arizona, special guest readers were invited to encourage early childhood education and reading in schools across the state. The Washington District Education Association co-hosted a breakfast of green eggs and ham with the Washington Elementary School District and its foundation to kick off their Read Across America celebration. AEA President Joe Thomas spoke at the event about the importance of reading and the dedication of teachers in Arizona to their students: "I fight every day to make sure kids get the opportunity they deserve in a basic education." WDEA members Kyla Kushner, Joslyn Coor Brown, Lori Fox, and Katie Piehl and AEA President Joe Thomas at the annual Read Across America breakfast at Mountain Sky Junior High.

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