The Literacy Connection

The Reading Program at Texas A&M University - San Antonio

Volume 1 Issue 3

Celebrating African American History Month

Since 1976, every American president has designated February as African American History Month and endorsed a specific theme to celebrate this month. Our classrooms represent a wide variety of diversity and it is important to celebrate everyone throughout the entire year. A study which identified how states teach about the American Civil Rights Movement was completed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In most states, it was found teaching about the Civil Rights Movement was inadequate. In fact 16 states require no instruction on the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, those that do teach about it focus on icons like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. While both of these individuals were important, it is vital that students learn about individuals and groups of people who worked together as activists towards social change. Additionally, three states, Florida, Alabama, and New York were the only states that received recognition for their quality of teaching of the Civil Rights Movement. For more information about this study and to see how states line up, check out Teaching the Movement: The State Standards We Deserve.

As we enter the month, it is our hope that you will be inspired to discuss, people, events, and movements of the Civil Rights Movement with your students. Some topics you may consider include: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), The Greensboro Four, and Freedom Summer.

This issue will introduce famous African American Authors, African American Inventors and showcase children's literature. You will also find links to resources that can be used to engage your students in new learning.

Ella's Song by Sweet Honey In The Rock

Ella Baker was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and organized as an activist on college campuses during the Civil Rights Movement. Help keep Ella's legacy alive by advocating for others, leading, and organizing for change.

Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts

The Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts (TCTELA) is an organization that works to advance the literacy growth and development of all Texas students by developing a network of diverse professionals. This organization provides professional development based on best practices in education.

San Antonio will host the 2019 Annual Conference. The conference theme, Beyond Boots, Borders, and Books: The Many Faces of Literacy, will provide opportunities for educators to engage in critical conversations about literacy education in today's diverse classrooms.

For more information check out the TCTELA website.

Hot Topics in Literacy

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The Culture of Poverty by Ebony Tinajero

When it comes to the Culture of Poverty, the standard narrative that we as a society present to our students, is one that shows people living in poverty as free loaders, lazy, or unintelligent. In reality, poverty can touch all kinds of lives. Poverty, especially in the United States, does not discriminate. It does not matter what race or gender or even educational level you have. It is important that we teach about the culture of poverty in an authentic light to our students in order to avoid those prearranged stereotypes that we are all too familiar with. As teachers our first line of defense in teaching about a group of people without the pressures of stereotypes is through authentic literature. Authentic literature shows what poverty is actually like and how it effects the people in and around it.

The facts remain, there are about forty million people living in poverty in the United States today and about one in every thirty children suffer from hunger in the United States. In retrospect, that is about one student per classroom. Being a community of teachers, it is important that we come together and find literature to share with our students. It is also important that we remember that there will always be pieces of literature available to our students that are inauthentic and we need to take steps to ensure that we are teaching them to read critically to understand power and oppression in society.

Tyrell by Coe Booth is a novel about a young man whose dad is in jail, living in a shelter with his mother and younger brother. He is faced with a choice that could break him and send him on the same track as his father. This story focuses on the real life choices some of our students face in and outside of the classroom. This book does not present a life that could be easily fabricated. It is one that students who are in a situation, like Tyrell’s, can relate to.

Maddi’s Fridge is a story about two friends who play together after school. One day Maddi’s friend wants to go inside for a snack, but realized that Maddi’s fridge does not have very much. She then decides to sneak food from her house, that her mother has made for her, to share it with Maddi. This is a story that can help students understand poverty and hunger and they can become empathetic toward their own friends who are in the same boat as Maddi.

These two books are two of my favorite when it comes to getting our students to talk about poverty. As adults, we tend to stray away from topics that make us feel uncomfortable. So, literature is the bridge to help us get our students to understand and empathize with people who are put in a situation that may or may not be like their own.

Keep Learning . . .

On February 3rd, graduate students attended the Conference on Dyslexia at Schreiner University led by Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University. The workshop focused on the importance of the brain and lessons for development in dyslexia and intervention. Sponsored by Schreiner University and Wolf Creek Camp, this conference provided opportunity for teachers to learn about important strategies for working with dyslexic children. Click here for more information about Wolf Creek Camp.

Teachers as Learners . . .

On February 3rd, graduate students attended an event hosted by The Teacher Network at the University of the Incarnate Word. The workshop, Confronting Bias: Facilitating Difficult Conversations in the Classroom was facilitated by Jarah Botello from Teaching Tolerance. Teachers are reminded to approach critical conversations with a spirit of fearlessness. Check out all that Teaching Tolerance has to offer.

Salsa Leadership with Stan Pearson II

Thursday, Feb. 8th, 6pm

One University Way

San Antonio, TX

Central Academic Building Courtyard

Come learn the basics of Salsa dancing and learn about 5 key leadership steps in life.

*Persons with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Ana Flores at 210-784-1435 in advance of the event.

TExES Reading Specialist Certification Review Session

Saturday, Feb. 10th, 9am-12pm

One University Way

San Antonio, TX

*Persons with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Ramona Pittman at in advance of the event.

African American Read - In

Wednesday, Feb. 21st, 1-2pm

Texas A&M University-San Antonio, University Way, San Antonio, TX, United States

Central Academic Building - Cafeteria

In honor of Black History Month, students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate in the Inaugural African American Read In. This event is designed to promote the work of African American Authors.

*Persons with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Sarah Timm at 210-784-1500 in advance of the event.

Texas Association for Literacy Education

During the month of February, graduate students will attend the Texas Association for Literacy Education (TALE) annual conference at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX. Visit the site for more information about the work of TALE.

February Literacy Scholarship

Cantu, C., Rubio, M., & Piper, R.E. (2018, February). Home Literacy Environment and the

Impact on Oral Language Development. Texas Association for Literacy Education (TALE) Annual Conference. Canyon, TX.

Cisneros, G., Zamora, V., Piper, R.E., & Pittman, R.T. (2018, February). Using Technology as a Source to Improve Literacy Knowledge. Texas Association for Literacy Education (TALE) Annual Conference. Canyon, TX.

Guerrero, V., Gallardo, P., Votion, A. & Pittman, R. T. (2018, February). Parental Involvement Matters: Increasing Parents’ Self-Efficacy to Increase Their Child’s Literacy Outcomes. Paper to be presented at the annual meeting of the Texas Association of Literacy Educators. West Texas A&M University, Canyon, TX.

Leffew, P. & Piper, R.E. (2018, February). Teacher’s Self Efficacy of Vocabulary Instruction

Through the Use of Istation. Texas Association for Literacy Education (TALE) Annual

Conference. Canyon, TX.

Mayces, A. M., Puga-Aburto-M., Chavarria, M. Y. & Pittman, R. T. (2018, February). Teachers’ Knowledge of Early Literacy Skills and Dyslexia. Paper to be presented at the annual meeting of the Texas Association of Literacy Educators. West Texas A&M University, Canyon, TX.

Pittman, R., Piper, R., & Garfield, T. (2017). Providing teacher candidates opportunities to

excel while engaging elementary students in literacy: A partnership that works. Journal of

Effective Schools Project, 24, 52 - 56.

Wilson, J. C. & Ferguson, J. (2017). Co-teaching in Undergraduate Education: Capacity Building for Multiple Stakeholders. In Jarvis, D. & Kariuki, M. (Editors). Co-teaching in Higher Education: From Theory to Practice. University of Toronto Press.

White, E., Castro, S., & Piper, R.E. (2018, February). Teachers' Knowledge and Early Literacy: The Impact on Student Achievement. Texas Association for Literacy Education (TALE) Annual Conference. Canyon, TX.

Archived Issues

Dr. Rebekah Piper

Assistant Professor of Literacy

Dr. Ramona Pittman

Associate Professor of Literacy

Founding Editor, The Literacy Connection

Dr. Tasha Vice

Assistant Professor of Literacy

Dr. Jennifer Wilson

Associate Professor of Literacy

Guest Editor, Dr. Rebekah E. Piper- For questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact Dr. Piper at

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