Thursday, March 14, 2013

Let's Talk Authentic

Today was the first day of the Illinois Reading Council conference.  I got to start my day in a hilarious yet thought provoking session with Jeff Anderson on informational and explanatory text.  Jeff started us out on our feet with a revised version of "Stronger" that had us smiling and nodding our heads.  Should I admit that I own every book Jeff referenced in is session except one, and I immediately bought that one through my phone?  I figure if Jeff says a book is good, then it probably is.

Next I saw a session for literacy coaches and all I can say is that I have some philosophical differences. I just kept thinking that I'd like to introduce the presenters to Teri Lesesne and her Unprogram.

Lunch with Jeff Anderson was, as expected, lovely save for the surly waiter who was in charge of our table.  He did not appreciate us asking for more ranch dressing.

After lunch I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Katherine Sokolowski and two of her Monticello colleagues talk about different apps and web 2.0 tools they have incorporated into literacy instruction in her school.  Though I knew about a few of them (Magic Wand canner and LiveScribe pen to name two), others were new to me.  I'm looking forward to trying them out over spring break.

Finally, I made my way to Trent Reedy's presentation where he talked about his time as a soldier in Afghanistan and how his experiences there inspired him to write Words in the Dust.  I can't say that Reedy is an especially polished public speaker, but honestly.... that's one of the things that made me like listening to him so much.  He was real.  His passion for his subject great.  The emotions he showed while speaking of what life was like in that small village in Afghanistan were raw.  At times, he seemed as if he was on the verge of tears... just as many of us in the audience were as we listened to him.  This is the second time I've seen  Reedy tell his story.  The first was at an Anderson's Books events shortly after Words in the Dust came out.  I was moved that day to buy and read the book, but I don't remember the delivery of the story being so emotional and on the edge of barely controlled anger in some places.

In the course of his story,  Reedy talked about how his wife sent him a copy of Katherine Patterson's Bridge to Terabithia and how he read it in one day.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forget the power of his voice as he told how he NEEDED that book.  THAT book on THAT day changed his life.  It's an important reminder to us as teachers and parents that we can't give up on putting those just-right-at-that-moment books into kids' hands.  We might never know when that book might be the thing that makes a difference in a child's life, that provides comfort in a time of pain or hope in a time of despair.  We might never know when a teenager makes a different choice than the one s/he originally planned, one that may even save a life.

I may be sick to death of the words "aligned to Common Core" and "close reading" and "text-dependent questions," but I can honestly say I'll never be sick to death of the power of a story to move me to tears.

Thank you, Trent Reedy, for sharing your story with me.


  1. Goosebumps. I still have Trent's book sitting on my to read shelf. Need to move it up. And I'm right with you on those phrases you are sick of. I did have to laugh at the philosophical differences. Yep. :) Thanks for coming to cheer me on!

  2. Wow. The power of a story is pretty important.. and the fact that Bridge to Terabithia hit me like that, too.