Last week was Literacy Week, so many schools, libraries, and communities hosted events designed to highlight the importance and joy of reading and writing. Literacy skills, the backbone of everything we do as humans, were celebrated and honored.
One of the events I participated in was a Family Literacy Night at a local elementary school. It was not the school at which I teach, so I did not know the hundreds of parents and children who filled the school. Although I was a guest speaker and presenter in one of the many inviting sessions that were available to families in attendance, in some ways I watched the events as an outsider. I watched the children and adults laugh together, talk, wonder, and wander.
And what resonated more than anything else with me, was the underlying premise that literacy is a social endeavor. The purpose and power of literacy is to be able to share and communicate. The evening was joyous. It was filled with discovery. It helped to build connections. And it focused on books and reading.
Reading is not a solitary endeavor. Yes, in many cases when we read, we are doing it by ourselves, just the book and us. But that is just the first step. Sharing, discussing, and reflecting on what we are reading is a social endeavor. Think of the popularity of book clubs.
Even recommending books we have enjoyed becomes a social act that builds connections. Right outside my classroom door I have a gigantic “tree” made of a 3-D brown paper trunk and branches that stretch in every direction. Students are free to add “leaves” (ie book covers) of their favorite books to our “Tree-Mendous Book Tree”. Every single day, I have students excited to share a new book they have discovered, a new author they love, or a story that has resonated with them. I hear “Oh, I loved that book too!”, or “That was such a great book!” as they gather in the hallway between classes to point out and talk about the books they have read and what they thought of them.
Yes, books build social connections.