Priorities. Every individual and every organization has priorities. Some priorities can be explicit and intentional while other priorities are never spoken in words but demonstrated in actions. No matter how many priorities you may have, there can be only one top priority and every priority afterward is subject to either being of greater or lesser value than a competing priority. To say it simply, when two priorities come into conflict, one always wins.
In our district, we explicitly stated that literacy was going to be our top priority. While we value and prioritize many things, literacy is our priority that trumps all others. This is not to say that we sacrifice all other resources allocated towards priorities such as mathematics, safety, and other meaningful and necessary components of a school district. Rather, by identifying literacy as our top priority, we have dedicated significant and a responsible amount of resources towards enhancing literacy for our students. As a district, we ensure that time, focus, and engagement with literacy is dominate and noticeable in our words and actions. We live this priority.
So, in our attempt at providing students with a comprehensive approach to literacy, we wanted to make sure our literacy priority included families. We knew our literacy efforts could not stop at the school door. We knew our families loved and cared for their children and were willing to do the best they could. We knew we needed to support every family in promoting in the joy of all aspects of literacy.
We convened a group of staff members with a simple but powerful problem of practice. How do we engage more families in literacy and increase the number of books in homes? We knew it had to start in the classroom. Our school required current and diverse leveled readers aligned with our units of study. Furthermore, we recognized that most classroom libraries were antiquated and we had placed teachers in the position of scraping together their own classroom libraries. We knew we could do better. Our district aligned dollars with our priority of literacy and purchased leveled readers aligned to units of instruction. We then did a comprehensive audit of our classroom libraries before engaging teachers in purchasing collections of books for their rooms. Our teachers worked extensively to purchase, organize, and implement these books. But we knew we could not stop there. Our staff recognized that we needed to push books into the homes of our students. One child carried their dinosaur book with them everywhere he went for days to come. He took pride in his book and confirmed with our staff the power of getting books into homes.
Through this journey, we learned the power of partnership within our community when we engage in a purposeful and powerful endeavor. Our public school foundation stepped up to the challenge with dollars and manpower. They reached out to other community members, agencies, and businesses to not only purchase books for children but to open doors and allow us to reach out and provide over 1,000 books in one summer. We were in the community and at events, giving books to children and engaging with their families. We were in businesses such as barber shops and groceries stores, spreading our priority of literacy. We had teachers and principals who opened up their schools to celebrate literacy. And in the end, we learned that by sharing and emulating a powerful top priority of literacy, our community rose with us and engaged in ways we never thought possible. The joyous notion of it all is that this is just the beginning.
Photos courtesy of Moline-Coal Valley Community Unit District 40