Hello Literacy Voices Readers!

            We are excited to share such important work with you! In this spring’s publication, we focus on both equity and empathy in literacy, a reflection of the International Literacy Association "What's Hot Report" in which equity in literacy is emphasized.   The “What’s Hot Report” defines equity as “ensuring all children get what they need not only in situations of poverty and limited resources but also regardless of academic proficiency, geographic remoteness, and any other barrier to school success” (p. 11).  Further, Merriam-Webster released their top 10 words of 2017 and number four on the list is empathy.  The Literacy Voices Journal for the Montana State Reading Council highlights in our spring issue practices and research concerning equity and empathy in literacy across Montana and across the nation.  These issues of equity and empathy come into play in our state in which we continuously strive to incorporate lessons that meet the needs of all learners.  Montana has long been the leader in the implementation of Indian Education for All.   However, we have opportunity to deepen our inclusive practices.  In this issue, we present additional resources including those which support LGBT+ students, English Language Learners (ELLs), students living in poverty, and various cultural groups. 

This issue begins with some of our youngest learners in which building empathy through read aloud literacy practices is explored. Waterhouse (2018) asserts that intentional teacher interactions with students in early childhood, specifically literacy interactions, supports the development of empathy and equity. Students’ early experiences with literacy are so vital for educational success; however, just as important is the development of the person including empathy. A key piece to the development of students is understanding and awareness of the self, including LGBTQ+ students.

            Another best practice for supporting literacy in the classroom is the inclusion of diverse literature. All students need the opportunity to experience books as a window, a mirror, or a glass sliding door (Bishop-Simms, 1990). Experiencing characters that students can relate to is especially important for those that are often left out of literature, specifically LBGTQ+ youth. Our colleagues from Montana State University in Bozeman, Romeo and Ellsworth (2018), not only provide us with an excellent resource list of titles that include diverse characters and topics, but they also explicate why it is so important to include these books for all our students.

Teachers can feel uncomfortable or unknowledgeable about how best to create inclusive learning environments that support the specific needs the diversity of their classroom community. Ortmann and Rogers (2018) explain that diversity can include the traditional notions of race, ethnicity, or language; however, diversity can further include family structures, LGBTQ+ students, and cultural backgrounds. Their article explores teacher self-study as a professional development opportunity to examine diversity in the classroom. The experiences of two different teachers highlight their exploration into developing their cultural competencies.

As stated above, diversity considerations can and should include language considerations. Montana has recently experienced an increase in English Language Learners (ELL) students, and in some geographic areas such as in Missoula, a dramatic influx of ELLs.  The urgent pedagogical concern of these students in learning English is addressed. Specifically, empathy as a pedagogy for teachers of ELL students is highlighted.  

Finally, literacy concerns for students living in poverty and the effects of these conditions on learning are explored. According to Sharp, Hughes, and Carlisle (2018), literacy educators become more sensitive and aware of poverty and learning as they search for professional learning to augment their pedagogical practices. The suggested pedagogical strategies recommended in this article enable all educators to increase their use of culturally-relevant teaching practices in their classrooms.

We hope that this issue inspires you to think critically about ways in which you can incorporate equity and equity into your own classrooms.

Enjoy this issue!

Drs. Kari Dahle-Huff and Rachael Waller,
Co-Editors of Literacy Voices or  










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