The reading that we value in school is becoming further and further distanced from the literacy students experience in their outside lives. Inside the classroom, we ask our students to immerse themselves in print texts and write purposefully. Once out the door, they are text-messaging, blogging, engaging in online multi-player games, and expertly integrating words, images, and music to create original texts. Can we import these textual spaces and literacies into English class to help re-connect students who don't see themselves as readers and writers?
English educator Sara Kajder's answer is an emphatic “yes,” and in Bringing the Outside In she demonstrates myriad ways to employ students' outside talents in the classroom. Drawing on multiple examples of student work, she shows how she adapts the curriculum to incorporate an expanded definition of literacy and literacy tools. Sara offers teachers guidance on how to extend their repertoire of teaching strategies, and help kids connect their natural curiosity and skills as readers and writers of both print and electronic texts, while keeping reading and writing at the center of the curriculum.
Keying in on the visual aspects of literacy, and building upon students' growing interest in using words and images from their lives to read and write for authentic reasons and authentic audiences—integrating such strategies as digital storytelling, visual think-alouds, visual literature circles, and others into English class—Sara and her kids redefine what it means to be literate in today's world. By adding visual components to class activities and projects integrating tools ranging from pencils and paper to “weblogs” and “wikis,” even reluctant students can become engaged and see themselves as readers and writers for the first time.