May 6, 2009

Literacy Teamates

Becoming Teammates: Teachers and Families as Literacy Partners
Charlene Klassen Endrizzi
NCTE (978-0-8141-0273-2)

Charlene Endrizzi's new book is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning about strengthening the partnerships between parents and teachers as they work toward mutual literacy goals. She graciously agreed to tell us about her work and the ideas in her book.

Tell us about the work you do as faculty at Westminster College.
As a teacher researcher, both symbiotic roles help describe my daily work. Teaching literacy courses to my undergraduate and graduate students is my passion yet I also feel compelled to inquire about literacy learning alongside teachers in classrooms. My love of children’s books enables me to continually explore new avenues for connecting students with texts, thus enabling them to understand themselves and their world more completely. Currently I am on the advisory board of the World of Words, an International Collection of Children’s and Adolescent Literature, housed at the University of Arizona. Our goal is to build bridges of understanding across cultures through books.

Your book, published by NCTE, Becoming Teammates: Teachers and Families as Literacy Partners, focuses on teacher and family collaboration. What led to your writing this book?
I began exploring the role of family-school literacy partnerships 16 years ago when I started teaching at Westminster. I carried out three key partnerships between graduate students, preservice teachers, classroom teachers and their students’ families over twelve years. I draw from these three diverse settings to describe an array of avenues for helping teachers build literacy partnerships with families.
Becoming a mother eight years ago also significantly shifted my understanding of the power of families as each child’s first and last learning partner. Teachers need to reach out to families, investigate their diverse funds of knowledge, and consider how to build upon these rich resources as they create their literacy curriculum.

What was the most significant point(s) you learned about partnering with families?
When teachers and families combine their different wisdoms and resources, they create a synergetic force for learning. As teachers reach out to families and learn about their distinct ways of knowing, their vision of each child and literacy learning is dramatically transformed.
Teachers have endless opportunities for building a more vibrant community of learners that includes families. One delightful exploration I share evolved from an author study conducted with a second grade teacher, Karen Tarka Jones, and her students. Before Pat Mora came to visit Westminster College several years ago, these second graders carried out a Family Stories study by first exploring Pat’s remarkable books. Using her books as inspiration, children then authored their own family stories tales. This exploration concluded with children sharing their treasures with parents at a family literacy gathering where Karen and I also explained our beliefs about Writing Workshop.

What’s your personal definition of Bookjoy!
As a mother of an eight year-old boy, I delight in jointly exploring texts like Spiderman comics and Molly Bang. Right now I am trying to convince my son, Bryce that females have the right to read the Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden, if they happen to be a mother of a boy.
As a teacher researcher, I am thrilled to watch my preservice teachers discover and fall in love with texts like Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, or I See the Rhythm by Toyomi Igus and Michele Wood. Last month I experienced great satisfaction as I observed my Reading Specialist graduate students conducting a literacy advocacy project. They advocated for and initiated classroom and school-wide celebrations like The National African American Read-In (sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English), Read Across America, and El dia de los ninos.

Many thanks to Charlene for taking time to share with us.

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