Children's Literacy Initiative was a key component of my classroom in North Philadelphia. With limited supplies, CLI stepped up and provided my classroom with a plethora of books as well as lots of guidance on implementing them and increasing students' love of reading. I would, hands down, accept them into another classroom of mine.
After teaching for ten years, winning a local award, and getting a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction, I thought I was more than equipped to help children learn to read and write. From Chicago to the far west rural areas, I had done my best with developing literacy in young children, and thankfully received "superior" evaluations throughout. However, in Children's Literacy Initiative, I have discovered a whole new outlook on what best practice really involves, and how to help teachers, novice or veteran, understand and implement this type of instruction. Well-trained, supportive coaches are facilitators for elementary teachers who may need help in a number of areas. These include classroom environment, routines, reader's/writer's workshop, and the CLI-developed "MTP". MTP is Message Time Plus, and builds upon/revolutionizes the typical morning message. This is just one example of how CLI takes everyday practices and uses research to improve them. These are then made teacher friendly. Teachers build supportive relationships with coaches, who they trust are not there to judge their performance. They receive and endless amount of ideas and actual lessons/books to directly affect students more positively and instill a lifelong love of learning. I can't think of a more comprehensive, inspiring and effective way to help children master literacy.
I went to a college that was originally a normal school, one with the sole purpose of training teachers. I had several long term student teaching experiences, and I thought I had a solid education behind my teaching degree. I was shocked to discover I had very little idea how to move students as readers, and was at a complete loss when it came to instructing writing. I could have good discussions with children about the stories in their basal textbooks. (I should mention that when I first started teaching the "stories" in these texts were vocabulary controlled resulting in very weak narratives.)I could assign writing topics and correct each and every error a student made, essentially rewriting his work, and handing back the paper for recopying, but I could do little else. I was left to my own devices to improve my craft. Now I work with teachers, the majority very early in their careers and I co-plan, co-teach, and co-reflect on each lesson we do together, implementing best practices in the instruction of literacy. Children's Literacy Initiative keeps my colleagues and me abreast of the most current research regarding literacy instruction, and I am able to asure that any teacher I'm assigned to coach isn't left to flounder like I did as a new teacher. As a result, teachers who use best practices as their teaching strategies can expose their students to rich literature increasing the domains of the children's knowledge and allowing them to hear sophisticated vocabulary in context. Students can emulate fluent reading modeled by their teachers as they navigate texts at their own levels using decoding and comprehension strategies learned during these read-alouds, during reading workshop, or Message Time Plus. Writing is demystified as children are taught to view the world as writers, and then choose their own topics for writing, trying craft modeled by their teachers, or maybe by an author studied by the class. Mechanics are taught and used purposefully rather than in meaningless isolation. Children ultimately see themselves as writers with ideas worthy of recording. Children's Literacy Initiative empowers teachers, thereby empowering all the students they will ever teach.
Before Children's Literacy Initiative, I had never before worked for an employer that so highly prioritizes reflection, goal adjustment and real collaborative input from its employees. There are no experts at this organization-- just colleagues with expertise. We are constantly and rigorously exchanging ideas with each other during our professional development sessions, content meetings, mentor visits, book discussions and so on-- thus, I feel highly confident in my professional role, yet I avoid falling into a common pitfall of believing that I know "the correct way" to tackle something. Each day that I coach, I go out into the field fully armed physically with resources, and mentally with individual colleagues' faces over my shoulders. I know I am part of a team that talks, listens, assesses, practices, tweaks, supports, brainstorms and strives. I honestly could not custom tailor a better work environment; the resulting pride and satisfaction I feel from being part of this committed, nurturing community empowers me to persevere and dig deeper. The teachers I work with know that I am not the expert-- I am their partner, and together we adjust and improve upon our practices. I've adopted this philosophy because it is the heart of CLI's mission.
For nearly 20 years I have provided professional development for teachers, childcare workers, administrators and parents through Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI). In recent years my work has focused on teaching teachers the most effective, research based educational practices and helping them put these best practices into operation in their classrooms. The range of teachers impacted by CLI varies greatly. Last year I helped a new prek teacher schedule reading aloud great quality picture books to her children several times a day. I also supported a veteran 1st grade teacher in instituting a powerful reading workshop and upgrading her writing instruction. What I especially appreciated was the opportunity the teachers and I had to visit other teachers who excelled in these practices to see how they taught and have our questions answered. How satisfying to witness young children from low income and impoverished neighborhoods reading, writing, listening and speaking well!
As a teacher who has been expected to implement a number of literacy programs over my career, it was a huge surprise to come across Children's Literacy Initiative! The outstanding components of their program, for me, are an in depth and coherent understanding of how children acquire literacy skills and comprehension - a love of learning-, and the fact that while every teacher is given a series of training workshops, that is only the beginning. For the rest of the year, or a multi-year commitment, they also receive on-site, individualized coaching designed to help them not just implement best practices, but become so comfortable with them that they can apply what they learn to their teaching in the future. Based on intensive understanding of the research, CLI is able to bring early literacy skills to disadvantaged children, yet not at the cost of the social/emotional and play components of these grades. How cool is that?