In 2000, Kim Yaris, Literacy Builder’s Executive Director, traded her elementary classroom to pursue opportunities in other areas of education: professional development for teachers and motherhood. It didn’t take her long to discover that these jobs have a lot in common. Both make you go to your core and question who you are and what you are all about. Both force you to second guess your judgment and constantly ask, “Am I doing this right?” Both require a great deal of learning.
For Kim, learning about parenting was easy. There were tons of books to read and mommy and me groups galore. When she needed a recommendation for a dentist, she got four. When she needed to know which preschool was best, she put the question out in a crowded Gymboree class. When she needed information or resources about anything, all she had to do was ask her network of young mothers.
But when she needed to know more about the six traits of writing or had a question about guided reading, strangely, she had nobody to ask. She read and read and read but she needed to talk. She needed a mommy network for literacy and so, decided to start one.
Literacy Builders began in 2007 as a small group of four teachers who met every three weeks to talk shop. Over pizza and diet coke, we’d hash out how to teach poetry to second graders, how to have better conferences, how to get kids to have better discussions about books. Through conversation and collaboration, we reflected on and refined our practices.
Our study group was so excited about our learning, we decided to invite others to participate. We put together a summer workshop series called “Start September Strong” and invited colleagues from all over Long Island to join us in our learning. In the summer of 2008, a small group of dedicated teachers gathered together to study reading and writing workshop and thus, launched a yearly tradition.
The Literacy Builders Study Group has grown and now includes nine faithful teachers who continue to gather every three weeks to talk shop and share. Unencumbered by agendas or by-laws, our meetings allow us to go deep into the topics that we care most about. While we study theory and research, we are not academics. We are teachers. We get what is real and want to make great reading and writing instruction easy for everybody. The lesson plans that you find on this website are an outgrowth of our conversations and the work we do in our individual classrooms.
Teaching can be lonely. However, it doesn’t have to be.
Our vision started with creating a small network of professionals committed to great literacy instruction for the purpose of refining the art that we practice: teaching. Through sharing what we have learned with other professionals and expanding our conversations to include the voices of hundreds, potentially thousands, of other teachers, it is our hope to synthesize some of the greatest thinking about literacy in one convenient, welcoming place: Literacy Builders.