Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Learning from Literature

Second grade students enriched by author's visit

If a child doesn’t read at an accepted level by third to fourth grade, the chances of failure at school – and life – go up significantly.

The Greater Marco Family YMCA is acutely conscious of this sobering fact, so for the past 10 years has run a mentoring program called Y-Reads.

It’s just one of the organization’s multiple outreach programs that benefits the children (and parents) of some of the poorer neighborhoods in East Naples.

Recently, a group of second grade students from Manatee Elementary School indeed benefited from a literary visit in the form of Dolores Burton, a lifelong educator, award winning author of six books, and a Fulbright Scholar.

Using her allegorical book, “But You Don’t Look Like Me,” Burton blended its written components with its philosophy, and the kids were simply fascinated for nearly two hours.

The book outlines the story of Owlivia, a barn owl who wants to befriend some burrowing owls.

They reject her because she looks different, but later change their attitudes when she saves a baby burrowing owl from being snatched by a foraging hawk.

Fortifying the book’s message, Burton asked the group of young students to give examples of acts of kindness that go beyond looks.

Answers included “when somebody treats you like you would treat them,” and opening a door for somebody.

Also alluding to her book’s premise, Burton asked the group for things people might not know simply by looking at someone.

Responses included not knowing people’s ages, their birthdays and, most aptly, one child reaffirming the old adage of not judging a book by its cover.

To wrap up the session, the children donned owl masks and enjoyed an “owl parade” around the classroom, complete with high-pitched hoots.

On hand, along with a group of volunteer adult mentors committed to the Y Reads program, was coordinator Esta Alliker, who originally linked with Burton through sharing the same Marco hairdresser.

She said YReads program techniques include books, lesson plans, phonics and “literature circles” talking about text, as well as poetry, while many of the reading programs mesh with those of the children’s school programs.

Locally, many parents are unable to give English reading or help because of their own limitations in the language, Alliker said.

“And, most don’t often have the time.”

Burton, a PhD, worked nationally and internationally as a Fulbright Scholar to improve teaching and learning for all students.

She has published in educational journals and has presented her research at numerous venues across the globe. Her writing reflects her passion to help students and teachers succeed.

Besides three illustrated books using owls as central characters, Burton most recently published a middle-grade chapter book, “A Story of Courage: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.”

All books are available on Amazon.com and at BreaklightPublications.com.

To learn more about volunteering for YReads, as well as the Y’s wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 239-394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook @marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.



One response to “Learning from Literature”

  1. Nancy McGill says:

    I worked in the field of education for over 34 years. I tried so hard to get educators and administrators invested in a reading program (along with many other subject matter) that works. This is a reading program that surpasses all other reading programs. The research has reported time and again that there literally is no excuse to not use this program, particularly for students with special needs and those students living in lower socio-economic homes. This program is called Direct Instruction (DI) and was written by Ziegfried Engelmann. Many people are “uncomfortable” with the program or say “they don’t like it”. The only time I felt as if I was teaching and that I was getting positive results was when I used DI. When I see programs such as Y-Reads getting recognition, I have to ask where is the research? Have students reading levels accelerated as a result of this program? We have so little time to teach everything that is on our plate as it is.

    I am a huge advocate of public schools. I do not like this “invasion” of charter schools. However, if charter schools are willing to dedicate their personnel, administrators, students and resources to research-based materials and methodologies, then I am left to give them accolades.

    I have no skin in this, but it still breaks my heart when I see low income children doing activities that have nothing to do with their successful progress. Please reference the following website: ideapublicschools.org

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