Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman

National Education Association’s (NEA’s) annual Read Across America event has kept up with the times in its promotion of ways in which we read as well as the importance of reading access for all.

Read on to learn about culturally diverse literature for your students as well as related tips on culturally responsive classroom reading activities.

Redefining Reading Across America for 2023

Read Across America was started by NEA in the late 90s to encourage young readers to get excited about reading. Read Across America 2023 began with the launch of a 2022-2023 calendar that promotes books by diverse authors for students of different grade levels and backgrounds. The national celebration of Read Across America 2023 will take place on March 2, 2023.

Below is a sampling of literature themes in the calendar; each link will take you to recommended books for that month:

Reading Instruction for All

In my reflection on the Reading Across America 2023 calendar, I thought about a major goal in classroom reading instruction and activities which is to inspire a love for books through the introduction of interesting and engaging reading materials. When children I helped with reading could see themselves in the characters and/or situations depicted, they were stimulated to read more, which deepened their reading skills and broadened their background knowledge. That drive to want to continue to read, to know more, is what makes avid readers and supports a more literate, able world.

One way educators are improving their reach to all students is through the practice of culturally responsive teaching, which leverages relationships built with students and knowledge learned about students’ cultures as a context for teaching academic information using evidence-based instructional methods.

Check out Jeremy Hyler’s tips for helping students code-switch in their writing, another component of literacy. Below are 7 culturally responsive teaching tips from Dr. Tyrone C. Howard that align with Read Across America 2023 ideas and have general application to literacy instruction, including early reading strategies:

  1. Activate prior knowledge to help students connect to the lesson by asking them what they know about a particular concept. 
  2. Make learning contextual by encouraging students to connect discussions about other times, places, and cultures to their lives or the current moment. 
  3. Create an inclusive classroom by ensuring that the cultures and languages of your students are reflected in the classroom environment. 
  4. Form relationships with your students by sharing about yourself and learning about them on topics like interests, family members, and aspirations.  
  5. Discuss social and political issues that are germane to students’ lives and communities to teach them how to become informed and engage in respectful dialogue.
  6. Tap into students’ cultural capital by giving students opportunities to share their knowledge and skills in unique and varied ways (e.g., use languages other than English, when possible). 
  7. Incorporate popular culture, such as music, movies, and other media of interest to students, to grab their attention and enhance the fun of learning.

Here’s to a More Literate and Able Future

Direct instruction of literacy skills using science-based teaching methods and use of complementary resources like WORD Force, a free online program that supports development of early childhood literacy skills, are critical to leveling the playing field of access to reading acquisition. Events like Read Across America 2023 bolster those efforts by providing necessary information about current quality literature that is socially and racially/ethnically representative. I am encouraged by the inclusive essence of Read Across America 2023 and look forward to promoting the event as well as the promise it brings.

Free Literacy Activities for K-2nd Grade Students

With WORD Force, you’ll energize independent practice time. Throughout the program’s 15 games, your students will enjoy a silly “save-the-world” storyline while receiving consistent, timely feedback on their budding early literacy skills.

Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman

Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman is the Vice President of Early Literacy Impact at EVERFI. In her role she enjoys collaborating with colleagues across units as well as external stakeholders on early literacy projects as a subject matter expert. Dr. Coleman’s career focus on spoken language and literacy has been infused in her work in public and private schools, public and private universities, and a not-for-profit association. She is a board member of Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia and Learning Disabilities Association of America.