By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
The month of November is highlighted by the Thanksgiving holiday, and is a time to reflect on our good fortune and enjoy some downtime. During the holiday I began reading the latest book by Brene Brown titled, “Dare to Lead.” Admittedly, I am only a short way into the book, but I like its message about courage and leadership. However, I don’t mention the book here for the purpose of making a recommendation. Instead, my intent is to discuss the power of literacy, reading and writing. Why?
In my adult life, I sometimes forget that as a child and even into young adulthood literacy was an area of struggle for me. As a child, I was developmentally behind my peers when it came to both reading and writing. My developmental lag wasn’t identified and addressed until my family moved from Queens in 1972 to Lake George. As a transfer student entering fifth grade, I was tested for reading, and subsequently, designated for reading support or what today we call AIS. Of course, at the time I had no idea why I was asked to meet with a nice elderly lady every day during English class while most of my peers stayed in the classroom. Upon reflection, I realize this was the start of a struggle with reading and writing, which would persist throughout K-12 and into college.
My parents were not readers or writers! When I was a child, we had few if any books in our home. I rarely, if ever, saw either of my parents read, other than my father perusing the weekly T.V. Guide Magazine. I honestly can’t remember having a book read to me by either parent when I was child. My mother and father were loving parents who appreciated the value of an education, but neither of them had more than a sixth grade education and struggling to make ends meet was the focus of each day for them.
Reading and writing in my opinion is a gift; literacy is paramount for success in today’s world and in the future. At CASDA, we offer workshops, conferences and technical assistance work in the area of literacy. In November, our Diverse Learners Conference offered several literacy-related workshops. In addition, we have offered workshops on guided reading groups and struggling readers and there are other offerings of this nature in the planning phase for our Winter and Spring sessions.
I am excited about CASDA’s partnership with the Capital District Writing Project at the UAlbany School of Education. In this month's edition of the CASDA In Focus Newsletter, we included a number of excellent opportunities for professional development in the area of writing, the sometimes forgotten partner to reading. On December 1, “Let’s Get Creative! Innovative Approaches to Teaching Narrative and Argument Writing,” is offered as the second of two Saturday Seminars. Mark your calendar for a Midwinter Retreat on January 19, 2019 called “Lighting Up the World: Teaching Writing for Agency, Empathy and Justice” with Dr. Nicole Mirra, Rutgers University. Finally, if you are looking for a two-week intensive writing experience in the summer of 2019, don’t hesitate to sign up for “Argument in Action: Teaching Source-based Writing Across the Content Areas.”
Our goal at CASDA is to provide you with professional development that is relevant, timely, applicable and high-quality. We believe our offerings in the area of literacy meet all of the aforementioned criteria. We recognize a literate citizenry is the foundation to a strong democracy and provides each individual with the opportunity to grow intellectually, creatively and spiritually.