Principal's Bookshelf: The Reader's Reader

Lead With Literacy is an excellent resource for promoting literacy in schools.
By Julie Bloss
Principal, March/April 2019. Volume 98, Number 4.

It’s rare for me to read a book without making some type of notation in it—that’s the kind of reader I am. Of course, the more notes I make, the better I deem the book to be. If the book has lots of highlights, scribbles and scrawls, dog-eared pages, and so forth, the book is definitely a “winner” in my eyes and worthy of sharing with others.

After reading several reviews of Lead With Literacy: A Pirate Leader’s Guide to Developing a Culture of Readers and its associated social media hype, I purchased two copies. I loaned one pristine copy to a colleague, and it was returned in such a condition that I laughed out loud. Between my well-used copy and the returned copy, I had found my next book to share with NAESP readers. This book is on my “share” list, for sure; it’s rare to find a book that’s so easy to read and so full of ideas that can be implemented easily on the same day you read it.

In Lead With Literacy, author and principal Mandy Ellis reminds us, “Readers are leaders. And leaders are readers.” The book is divided into three sections, and it includes interactive exercises for the reader at the end of each chapter. Questions give the reader an opportunity to reflect upon his or her personal connection with the chapter content, and encourage the creation of an action plan to implement a new literacy strategy in the classroom or school.

Readers are encouraged to post their chapter findings on social media using the hashtag #LeadLAP (which stands for Lead Like A Pirate), and the book’s social media following is strong. Between reading the book and gathering ideas other readers have posted on Twitter, I have broadened my view of how I can better embed literacy opportunities for my students, their families, and my staff.

The Lead Reader

Section 1, or “Be the Lead Reader,” dives right into a discussion of how a principal can promote literacy by being seen as the school’s lead reader. Ellis provides ideas that are quick, simple, and yet impactful on the culture of literacy. How can you, as principal, share what you read with your staff? This should be ongoing and second-nature. A good start, she suggests, is to include what you’re reading, “including book reviews, images of book covers, or even video messages” in staff memos or your email signature.

Setting Sail

Section 2, “Set Sail With Students,” will fill your toolbox with new ideas. Learning about the importance of student choice, access to books, independent reading time, and the learning environment will leave you feeling empowered. Some of my favorite suggestions include building “comfortable and collaborative learning spaces outside of the classroom” where reading is promoted, and finding places for students to access books outside the typical classroom and library settings.

Read and Repeat

Section 3, “Read. Connect. Repeat.”, tells how to increase student and staff reading. Have your highlighter and sticky notes ready! Ellis provides a range of inexpensive strategies and clever ideas for everything from providing students with books and integrating literacy activities and rewards to helping your staff read more, professionally and personally.

Ellis reminds us of the importance of students and staff developing a love of reading. As principals, it is our responsibility to create a culture of literacy, provide equal access to books, promote activities and events that encourage reading, and help others become lifelong readers. Lead With Literacy provides a map that will take the reader to a treasure chest full of golden ideas.

Julie Bloss is principal of Grove Early Childhood Center in Grove, Oklahoma.

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