Five Things I Learned from edu@scholastic Bloggers

At the end of this week, after almost three years of editing, writing and caring for this blog, I'll be handing the keys over to a new editor, Julia Graeper.

Julia will undoubtedly make this an even more robust source of information and inspiration for educators and education leaders. Still, it's humbling to look back through the archives and revisit the fascinating contributions from the educators, school administrators and researchers who write in this space.

Here are five things I learned from edu@scholastic bloggers that will stick with me.

1) Reading is not just about getting the words. Lois Bridges, a master of language and the science of literacy, taught me that reading is far more complicated and nuanced than simply adding up the sum of all the words in a sentence and computing a meaning.

Simply put: language is redundant. The information in every sentence is signaled in more ways than one. Indeed, language circles back on itself, creating cohesive chains of meaning that readers can follow across a text, picking up clues, not unlike Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs through the dark woods."

2) Language and play develop in tandem. Lesley Koplow of the Bank Street College of Education explained to our writer Suzanne McCabe how play is an essential part of learning for young children.

You can’t feed language without feeding play. That doesn’t work, especially when children are stressed by life experiences. They need play to integrate and make sense of their experiences the way adults do. Adults talk about a frightening event so that they can make sense of it. Kids need to play about what happened so that they can make sense of it."

3) Read alouds aren't just joyful - they're essential. Almost universally, students and teachers of young children love read alouds. Yes, these experiences build bonds and help children begin to find joy in books. But read alouds are also an essential part of learning to read, writes master teacher Maria Walther.

If we want children to integrate meaning and ideas across texts, they have to have experiences hearing a lot of texts. They need a rich textual lineage—a wealth of reading experiences from which to draw. We are setting ourselves up for failure if we put forth all these grand ideas of voluminous independent complex text reading, but then don’t offer students voluminous, joyful read aloud experiences each and every day.

4) Games can make us smarter. My interview with journalist and author Greg Toppo helped me understand how the game-playing experience is very often a powerful learning experience.

Like school, a good game is a designed experience that ideally takes the learner by the hand and guides him through each of the steps to learning the material. People like James Paul Gee and Kurt Squire would say that’s why games are so much fun – not because of the shooting and explosions, but because we naturally love to learn."

5) Professionals persevere despite bumps in the road. An inspiring post from Kristina Holzweiss, the 2015 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year, reinforced this valuable lesson. Just seven years ago, her school position was cut to part time, leading to a low point in her life. Yet her dedication to her professional mission and desire to make a difference in children's lives pushed her on and helped her accomplish so much.

So, why am I telling you all this? Hopefully, you will be inspired to tell your story—how you make a difference in your students’ lives. Advocacy for your position as a certified school librarian takes place the second you put a book into a child’s hands, but it shouldn’t end there."

Here's to a long life of learning!

Photo: mrsdkrebs