Summer challenge: Finding literacy in everyday life

Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Monday, July 21, 2008

Students at Bryan Station High School have faced a challenge this summer – a literacy challenge. The goal is for teens to realize that literacy means more than reading books and that it is crucial to everyday life, whether they’re following a road map or a dessert recipe, analyzing a political debate or reflecting on a jazz concert.

“Being a literate member of society is fun and important, and you probably already do it, whether you realize it or not,” said Renee Boss, head of the school’s English department and creator of the summer challenge.

Students – and faculty – were encouraged to complete one activity each week, such as visiting the zoo and writing about it or reading a banned book and reflecting on its history.

“I like (the literacy challenge) better because you don’t have to read a book that you don’t want to read. And there’s something to do for everyone,” said Cameron Jackson, a rising sophomore who has worked on Sudoku puzzles.

The activities are categorized from 1 to 5 points, based on the time required and degree of difficulty. Participants will turn in their work in August when school resumes, and the earned points will qualify them for prize drawings.

“These activities are very interactive and involve family and community … really getting out there and thinking about being part of the world,” Boss said.

The cross-curricular options cover everything from financial savvy to civic duty, from nature and science to the classics of literature. This fall, students will complete a reflective assignment on how they are literate in various subject areas.

Boss has been reading about how inquiry-based literacy drives true learning.

“Our whole program is about asking questions and learning something new,” she said, adding that such an approach can motivate students more than fear of a failing grade.

“We’re hoping people can be more reflective, which helps people grow individually in the way they think about life and issues and things that happen to them.”

Rebecca Mueller, a social studies teacher, likes that the summer challenge paints literacy in such a broad, positive light.

“The students are recognizing the value of literacy and the real-world applications,” she said, noting that eager kids completed activities even before the end of school.

All Bryan Station students, including incoming freshmen, were told of the challenge. Who has taken it up remains to be seen.

“(Traditional) reading lists are so cumbersome … and you have problems with the kids reading the books. They don’t think about it during the summer,” said Bethany Wallace, reading specialist at Bryan Station.

With the literacy challenge, the teenagers choose among myriad activities and hopefully will see the connections with everyday life.

“Reading is not just a book,” Wallace said. “There’s so much literacy you have to have to function in any field.”



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