Literacy Development

I have written a number of blog posts about storytelling and literacy development.  Enjoy!


Language based games are any game you play that focuses on using language creatively, listening intently to another person, stretching your vocabulary, and solving problems.


I remember one of my first teaching experiences when I was a young teaching artist in Chicago. I was in a school in an impoverished neighborhood. In one of my classes, a kid lost a dollar bill. I made an announcement that if anyone found it, it belonged to this child.

I am not a reluctant reader. I have never been a reluctant reader. My insatiable desire to be wrapped in the printed word started when I was about four years old, and it has never abated.

A Phrase I hear, especially from boys of a certain age, is 'I don't like to read'.

I always find that statement heartrendingly sad because I am a bibliophile, and I can't imagine life without books.

This book is about how Standard English, which is taught in American schools, is a different dialect of English that lots of children do not speak. Instead of educating kids with different dialects, the efforts educators make to teach Standard English actually make it hard for students who do not already speak Standard English to learn ANYTHING. You get me? School becomes a battlefield for learning ANYTHING.

Lots of storytelling. Worked in schools that educate the very privileged, all the way over to the children whose parents have little to nothing. The difference in these two groups is always stark. The similarities between these two groups is always interesting.

Every now and then I run across something that makes me stop, think, and digest.  I have been doing that for some time now over a couple of books I read.

30 Million Word Gap Debunked! Where to start?


Have you ever had a morning where you are reading through the news and your life gets tilted off kilter in a way that makes your heart skip?

Language, Literacy and Policy…What?


It is quite something whena literacy enhancement drum you've been beating for the last fifteen years turns up in the political arena in a place you never thought to see or hear it.


Whatever mechanism it is that controls how human beings process and learn language must be forming long before the age of four.



This post is about how the 30 Million Gap robs students of their potential, and impedes their progress when they attempt to achieve higher education goals, or synthesize complex language.




While the bond which joins teller and listener is strong, equally powerful is the realization that every listener perceives the characters, the setting, and the story in his or her own way. Story-listening and story exploration provide important opportunities for students to exercise their ability to create their own internal images.




In the benchmarks of the Common Core State Standards, emphasis is placed on reading, writing, speaking, listening, analyzing, and critically thinking in order to progress and thrive.  These are life skills, tools that are useful and needed throughout one’s lifetime.



K - 2 Pre Reading Skills - Visualizing Language

Pre Reading Stories are tales that help students focus on elements of comprehension without the mechanics of reading getting in the way.  This entry deals with the concept of visualizing language.


  • Pre Reading Skills - Predictions

    Pre Reading Stories are tales that help students focus on elements of comprehension without the mechanics of reading getting in the way.  This entry deals with the concept of predictions.

    Being able to make predictions while reading and revise those predictions as the information is revealed is a critical skill in the process of comprehension.  Readers must learn how to pay attention to texts in a way that allows them to make both short and long term predictions.



    Pre Reading Stories for K - 2 - Scope and Sequence

    Pre Reading Stories are tales that help students focus on elements of comprehension without the mechanics of reading getting in the way.  This entry deals with the concepts of Scope and Sequence.

    Scope means the way the story is laid out from the beginning and how it builds to the end.  Learning to sequence means understanding how to look at the events of a story in the order in which they occurred.



    Stories for 3rd - 5th -Fables and Such

    Stories for the third through fifth grade group are doing two very particular things.  The first and foremost thing that this group of stories does is reinforce the comprehension and pre reading skills that are central to reading success.  They often use repetition and vivid images as well as word play to create tensions that force the audience to pay attention to details. 


    What's the best grade to start integrating stories into curriculum?



    Today I was in an elementary school in Concord, NC.  The media center specialist told me that they never have live performers come in from outside.  Both she and the principal had seen me somewhere in the past, and when they heard I was in the area, decided to have me come and address their kids.  Before I left, she told me that she really wants to work on using storytelling in the classroom.  She asked me what would be the best grade to implement such a thing.


    6th Grade Tales – Stories for the nonhuman



    Sixth grade is a funky year for most kids.  It is a transitional year from childhood into the first blush of the teenage years. 

    Sixth graders are going through a hormonal obstacle course on the inside.  Some are changing drastically on the outside, others aren’t changing at all and everyone is noticing.  All sorts of things that never bothered them before become of paramount importance.


    Literate Household - Boosting Literacy in the home

         I came across the concept of Literate Classroom almost fifteen years ago.  it is a simple idea.  The classroom should have a variety of books.  They should touch a wide variety of subjects and they should range from simple books all the way up to books that are outside the age range of the kids in the classroom.  The books should be in all parts of the classroom and children should have time over the week to read in class.  They can either select a book from the bookcase or they can bring one from home.  it is a simple idea, and it promotes literacy.


    Hubris and Vanity and Mythology, Oh My!


    I spent a week in rural North Carolina teaching sixth graders about how to present themselves and speak clearly using Greek mythology as a medium.  It was interesting.  For starters, Greek mythology is usually an in with this age group.  Many kids find the stories interesting and with the popularity of Percy Jackson, kids are reading Rick Riordan's books with relish.  When I have to work with sixth graders, if I can use Greek myths, my battle is usually half way won.

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