Literacy Bytes

Welcome to our online digest featuring member spotlights and links to teaching ideas and resources.

• The Love of Reading by 4th Grade Teacher and Council member Dr. Sandy Duty

It’s that time of the year when we want to ignite the love of reading with all students in our classrooms. As a classroom teacher with many years of experience, instilling the love of reading with my students is so important. The following list is how to inspire the love of reading:

Surround students with good books. Classroom libraries should be rich with many different titles and genres. When we give students a classroom library, we show students that reading is something to do at any moment of the day.

Show students how much you love reading. Read aloud to students several times a
day. Make reading a routine in the classroom.

Encourage students to set, attain and celebrate reading goals.

We must make reading fun. Students are able to choose their reading materials.
Offer opportunities for students to collaborate with each other while reading.

This is my favorite book on this topic:



• Bilingual Literacy Instruction in Beaverton by Board Member Trish Pazdakski

Courtney Elliott teaches literacy in both Spanish and English in her role as Spanish teacher at Raleigh Park Elementary School in the Beaverton School District. This fall, she helped support a school wide literacy effort around the book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada. Students read the book in their homeroom classes and thought about the nature of ideas and how they can change the world. Learning key vocabulary in Spanish allowed them to express their ideas in writing in Spanish after fleshing them out in English. Kudos to Courtney for supporting literacy in two languages!

• Inspiration for Classroom Instruction by Board Member Laura Bush

Reading Rockets is a website full of successful literacy strategies. Whether you are a new teacher or experienced veteran, a look through these strategies is certain to spur your creativity.

Resources include: Teaching Reading; Helping Struggling Readers; Reading Topics A-Z; Differentiated Instruction; Vocabulary; Writing; and much more. Go to Reading Rockets to spark your planning!

A Mighty Girl website has everything you need for Women’s History Month. It includes suggestions for picture books with beautiful illustrations that will have your students thinking in new ways about the contributions that women have made to improve our world.

Countering Fake News with Information Literacy by Board Member Julie Owens

Do you remember a time when your parents or teachers told you, “Just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean it’s real”? With students engaged in the fast-paced media world of tweeting on Twitter, posting on Facebook, uploading photos on Instagram, and others, they are bombarded with “news” at an alarming rate. Technology has provided more opportunities for fake news to be spread rampantly. How can we help our students discern what is real and what is a hoax?

Education writer Linda Jacobson has written an article titled, “The Smell Test: Educators can Counter Fake News with Information Literacy. Here’s How.” Preview this article from School Library Journal to see how you can support your students in identifying fake news on their own.

Writing and Speaking Support with Sentence Frames by Board Member DeAnne Fuhriman

Meaningful discussions and public speaking don’t come easy to most elementary-age children. While attending a professional development workshop on academic language, I discovered ways to help all of my students start conversations by using sentence frames and sentence starters. These have also proven helpful for students who need confidence when starting a written response to their reading.

The following are some ideas I use with my students:  

The passage is mostly about _______________.

An important supporting detail is ___________.

In the story _____, the problem is ___ and it is solved by / when __________.

I was wondering ____ when _______________.

I believe that ________________ because _______________________.

I think __________ is important because ______________________.

Find ideas for using sentence stems / frames / starters

• Picture Books Highlighting Diversity by Board Member Shaari Cohen

Looking for picture books that show diversity? Here are three beautiful stories to use in the classroom that deal with diversity from a refugee camp to comparing daily lives in Mexico and America. They lend to themes of acceptance, celebrating differences, comparing of cultures, symbolism and family cultures/histories.

Joseph’s Big Ride by Terry Farish jo's big ride

This story was inspired by the experiences of refugee boys from south Sudan. It is a delightful story about a new immigrant boy trying to find friendship and the joy of getting to ride a bike- something he wanted so badly to do back in Sudan.

Dear Primo A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh

This story focuses on two cousins: one in Mexico and the other in America. Through the story they write letters to each other about their daily lives. The reader sees how different their lives are but that the boys are also very similar.

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora thomas

This story is “based on an actual migrant worker, Tomas Rivera, who became chancellor of a University- where the library now bears his name.” In this story Tomas is the son of migrant workers, moving every summer following the crops. At night they gather to hear grandfathers stories and before long Tomas knows them all by heart. Grandfather tells him the library contains more stories. Tomas then goes and meets the library lady, who helps a whole new world open for him.

• Reaching Students with Graphic Novels by Board Member Julie Owens

Do you have readers who are young or old, reluctant or voracious?  Graphic novels are one way to reach a variety of learners. A graphic novel is not the “easy way out” for your students who are reading them. Reading and comprehending a graphic novel involves skills much like their traditional counterpart of the novel. 

This article by Scholastic provides a general overview of what graphic novels are, how they can be used to promote and support literacy skills for students, and several resources for teachers to use. 

A Guide to Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens 


• Excellent Resource for Teaching Vocabulary by Board Member Penny Plavala

I am working with teachers on creating Text-Dependent Questions for their classroom assessments and encourage them to use “strong verbs” on Bloom’s list or DOK.

An excellent resource for this work is Teaching the Critical Vocabulary of the vocabCommon Core: 55 Words That Make or Break Student Understanding by Marilee Sprenger. (2013 ASCD)

K-12 classroom strategies, graphic organizers, computer games and movement activities are included to reinforce the definitions of key verbs and nouns.

You may be asking, “In what order should I teach these words?” The following list shows the verbs according to grade level as they are introduced in the CCSS for Literacy:

K: compare, contrast, describe, distinguish, identify, retell                                                      1st: demonstrate, determine, draw, explain, locate, suggest, support                                  2nd: comprehend, develop                                                                                                              3rd: organize, refer                                                                                                                           4th: infer, integrate, interpret, paraphrase, summarize                                                             5th: analyze                                                                                                                                         6th: articulate, cite, delineate, evaluate, trace                                                                           11th: synthesize


• Increasing Emphasis on Sight Words by Board Member Shaari Cohen

While listening to many great speakers at a recent literacy conference Portland, one sight wordsmessage was clear: early childhood educators need to put a great emphasis on sight words. A National Early Literacy Panel report shows that this is one of the strongest predictors of future literacy success.

When children have a solid base of sight words, it accelerates their reading progress. By third grade, reading texts contain 75% sight words. If we want children reading at grade level by third grade, it seems a boost in sight word vocabulary would be most helpful. The teaching of sight words can be brain friendly and joyful.

Here are a few ideas for student practice we hope you find helpful:

  • Read a friend: put sight words on a child’s shirt with clear name tag holders and the children ‘read a friend.’
  • Practice spelling words with the following: pipe cleaners, wikki stix, stir straws, glass blobs found at craft stores (shiny and smooth, kids love them), magnetic letters and cookie sheets, letter tiles or even legos.
  • Put sight words on the classroom door and have children high 5 a word as they say it on their way out.
  • Games and more games! Example: turn Candy Land into sight word practice with high frequency words on the board/cards.
  • ABC dough stamps and play dough.
  • Rubber ABC stamps and paper.
  • Sing the words. Our brains are musical and retain information that is put to song, as well as being joyful. Many traditional tunes work well. Frère Jacques for 3 letter words, Twinkle Twinkle for 4 letter words (l-i-k-e spells like, l-i-k-e spells like, l-i-k-e, l-i-k-e).


• Reading Resource

Multnomah County Library now has a wonderful resource to help you find books that are a great fit for your child or a student in your class: Welcome to Reading Kits!

Multnomah County Library has kits at four levels: Starting Out (yellow), Building Skills kit(blue), Reading More (red), and On My Own (purple). Each color-coded bag contains 5 fun books and activities you can do to help your child become a stronger reader. Some kits have books on a specific theme, like Comics, Dogs and Cats, or For Real! Facts. Many kits are called Five to Try, and contain a variety of books at the reading level. Explore several kits and help your child discover what he or she loves to read.

The kits are housed at Albina, Gregory Heights, Gresham, Hillsdale and Woodstock locations, but you can place and pick up holds at any library location. Ask library staff about Welcome to Reading Kits today! Welcome to Reading Kits are made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation.

• Culturally Responsive Books

An important conversation happening in many educational settings is the tremendous diverse booksneed for more diverse characters and stories in children’s literature. All too often, our students lack the opportunity to see themselves and their families in the stories they read. Below, find three important articles that highlight statistics surrounding the current state of diversity in children’s literature and compelling reasons to make more intentional choices when we purchase books and when we decide what to read with our children and our students.

New York Times: “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”

School Library Journal: “Children’s Books – Still an All-White World?

FiveThirtyEightLife: “The World of Children’s Books is Still Very White”

The Danger of the Single Story” is a TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In her compelling talk, this novelist tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice – and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

One last resource is  We Need Diverse Books, a website dedicated to highlighting the best of diverse literature for children and teens and to heightening awareness through continued education. That awareness and education—for all of us—is an ongoing journey.