Saturday, January 23, 2010

Literacy Outside the Box

Greetings, All!

The purpose of this blog will be to track the progress and development of the Illinois Reading Council's 2011 Annual Conference. I happen to be the Vice President, which means this conference is my responsibility. The conference theme - upon which I should have decided long ago - will be "Literacy Outside the Box." In the past, the other conference chairs have come up with their themes at least three months sooner than I did, but I have a problem, sometimes, with making decisions, when it is something that is a big deal like this. The possibilities are endless, and I really wanted to make sure the conference theme reflected the kind of conference I wanted to help develop.

Several months ago, the Executive Director came to my house to meet with me about getting started in all of this. She seemed surprised when I told her I wasn't worried about the planning of the conference, even though that is probably the biggest responsibility I'll have in the next four years. The reason I don't worry about it is that the organization itself, the Illinois Reading Council, is such a well-run organization of fabulous people - all volunteers except the four office staff - that I have every reason to have confidence that it will come off without a hitch.

My list of potential speakers was huge from the very beginning, and even though it was hard to winnow it down to what I felt was a workable, affordable group of authors and reading professionals, the only difficult thing about that process was deciding who should speak at which meals and who should be considered a 'featured speaker' instead of a 'meal speaker.'

The most difficult process by far has been landing on the theme.

The concept that I want to promote through this conference is that we need to expand what we consider 'literacy' and where it can be found; literacy exists in so many places other than just books, even though I almost duck my head in shame in saying that, since books have always been so important to me. We all know that there are different things to read these days: blogs, web sites, Facebook, Twitter, Wiki's, etc. Like it or not, those means of communication are a part of our world, and they aren't going away, unless it's to be replaced by something else more technologically slick. I thought about a couple of other ideas before landing on "Literacy Outside the Box." "Expanding the World of Literacy" was a possibility that I thought got across the idea, but when I envisioned the logo, all I could see was an exploding earth, and that just seemed a little violent. Then I thought about a puzzle theme, something along the lines of "Putting Together the Puzzle Pieces of Literacy," but it just felt like it would be more limiting than I wanted, since it would focus more on putting things together to create a whole, and I wanted people to be encouraged to think outside of the whole.

My intent is not to try to diminish the importance of good literature; rather, it is to help us all become even more aware of the literacy that exists in today's world. I want educators to think outside the box, especially at a time when they are forced more and more to try to compartmentalize teaching and learning and stick to almost script-like teaching; in other words, it seems that we are being asked to box ourselves in. Our schools are producing kids who don't like to read, for the most part, and it's not the fault of the teachers.

From what I've been told about blogs, one is supposed to take ownership and post what one wants - so this is my blog, and I get to post what I want in it. I guess that's why you see the particularly unattractive picture of me in this post - but I had just completed a hike up to Manoa Falls outside of Honolulu, and sweaty and disheveled as I was, I was happy to be in such a beautiful place.

It is my hope that this blog will serve three purposes: to let others know some of what goes on behind the scenes in developing a conference, to explain some of my crazy ideas about literacy, and to let readers know about the speakers who will be joining us for the conference. If you follow this blog for the next year, you should come to the Illinois Reading Council 2011 Conference feeling like you know the folks who will be speaking there and working there to get things ready for you.

Here we go, folks!