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Share the joy of storytelling on Read Across America Day

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City Year’s emphasis on literacy and storytelling

There’s no better way to bring people together than through storytelling. Whether it’s a chance to read their own poetry, explain the meaning behind their favorite lyrics, or listen to a classmate share their family’s lore, students can strengthen bonds with their peers and flex their literacy skills during Read Across America Day on March 2.

“Literacy is about much more than just what we read—literacy is all types of storytelling,” says Allison Thompson, City Year’s national literacy specialist. “We want students to engage with something that brings them joy, while sharing who they are and what they can create.”

Since supporting student literacy is about bringing to life storytelling in all its forms, take advantage of the ideas and resources below to celebrate the diverse backgrounds and voices of our students on Read Across America Day and throughout the year. Thanks to the National Education Association for coming up with ideas that help bring literacy to life!

Top 5 literacy tips for Read Across America and beyond

1. Listening to a famous narrator can be a relaxing way to soak up new vocabulary. Storyline Online has called on celebrities to narrate their free online books, mainly aimed at younger students. Billionaire talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey reads Hula-Hoopin’ Queen; Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis shares Rent Party Jazz; and Grammy-winning actor Betty White brings to life Harry the Dirty Dog. Another alternative: do you listen to free audio books through your local library? Encourage students to sign up, too, and share what audio books they listen to and what they recommend.

2. Create a book “shelfie’’ by taking a picture with your favorite book and sharing with the class. Ask students if they’d like to do the same, and talk with their classmates about why that story speaks to them. Another option: ask students if they’d like to take a picture with the best storyteller in their family and talk about what makes them—and their stories—so memorable.

3. The concept behind Storypalooza is that everyone is a storyteller. Do students have traditional stories that are part of their culture that they’d like to share with the class? What similarities or differences can students spot between different stories? When are these stories usually told? You can also use this space to invite a guest storyteller—including a student’s parent or grandparent or another member of the school community—to share a story that’s meaningful to them and talk about why.

4. Browse book lists with students. What stories interest your students the most? They can pick both a story that’s a mirror reflecting their own identity, or a window that gives them insight into someone else and share why they made those choices. The National Education Association has book lists that celebrate the diversity of student backgrounds and experiences, including Hispanic heritage booklists, lists of Black authors, books with trailblazing women and more. While the website looks old school, the International Children’s Digital Library has free digital books for children and young teenagers in languages including Spanish.

5. Musical readers. Music and storytelling have gone together for thousands of years, so help students explore ways to weave them together. You can invite students to use a favorite story as inspiration to create their own lyrics and melody by themselves or in a group. Or maybe they have a favorite song they’d like to write different lyrics to, or a story they’d like to turn into a rap by rewriting it with a new speed and rhythm. Students can share their pieces if they’d like, or what they learned during the process about storytelling.

Read more about how City Year is working to encourage literacy, adapt to virtual learning and address systemic inequities in education.

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