Winter 2022      Volume 51, Number 1

Professional Development: Using Literacy Instruction to Support and Advocate for Our Marginalized Students
By Sophie Degener, Adelfio Garcia, and Ivy Sitkoski

Document: Column  

Introductory Paragraph:  Children’s author B. B. Alston tweeted in January 2021, “Book Banning: When you erase the history/experience of one kid to ‘protect’ another, what you’re also saying is that there is one type of kid worth protecting.” This statement really resonates with us as we watch (mostly) White parents storming school board meetings (even when their own children do not attend a public school), demanding that books with LGBTQ and Black and Brown characters be pulled from the shelves of classroom, school, and even public libraries because they are too controversial, “too much” for their own children to handle.

Who are the children worth protecting? As teachers, are we truly committed to literacy instruction that pushes back on racism and bias and works well for all children? Or do we just give lip service to that ideal? In Illinois, we are lucky that our legislators are not yet trying to operationalize censorship through anti-CRT legislation or “don’t say gay” laws. In fact, teacher preparation programs in our state now must align their courses to the Culturally Relevant Teaching and Leading Standards. If you haven’t seen these standards, we recommend that you go to the Illinois State Board of Education website and read through them. They are comprehensive and provide an excellent roadmap for the work we need to do to ensure teachers and school leaders create school climates, community, and curriculum that ensure all students learn and belong.

Readers of this column may have noticed over the last several years that many of the professional books that we have reviewed and recommended are those that look at culturally relevant/sustaining literacy instruction. This is no accident. Each of us, in our own ways and with our own perspectives, see literacy and language instruction as a means for pushing back on systemic racism and bias against marginalized groups, and we firmly believe in the power of language and literacy to broaden the perspectives of all students and teachers. We will continue to seek out and review books that will support you in doing the same.

The first two reviews in this column look explicitly at issues of race and inequity, with the first exploring how writing teachers can be interrupters of racial inequalities and the second looking at the intersection of social studies, language arts, and social justice. The final review looks more broadly at how literacy learning clubs in the content areas lead to increased engagement and, ultimately, to advocating for societal transformation. Each of these books will help you expand your repertoire of effective literacy teaching practices that better support all of your students.


Page Numbers:   40-43

The Illinois Reading Council Journal is available for IRC Members.  If you are a current member, please watch your mail and email for the current issue to arrive. 

Not an IRC Member?  A highlighted version showing the current issue's table of contents is available online for your viewing.  You can become an IRC Member and order a current copy of the IRC Journal by calling the IRC office at (309) 454-1341 or join online today to receive future issues!