I would like to begin my story with a few Literacy Facts.
1. 1 in 4 children in America grows up without learning to read.
2. 17% of the world's population is illiterate with an estimated 122 million youth worldwide falling into that category.
3. 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on Welfare. Over 70% of inmates cannot read above a 4th-grade reading level.
4. Nearly 85% of juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
I share those facts as a way to bring you into my world. A world of teaching/tutoring students, who may become a part of those statistics. Most of my students could not read on their grade level and because of that they did not want to participate in class and would prefer to be disruptive instead. Because I did not get a degree to become a "babysitter," I took matters in my own hand by creating activities that would spark engagement and active participation in reading class. Most of my years have been in middle school, so I was already competing with boys or girls, technology, and the middle school attitude.
From Humble Beginnings
As a way to get my students involved with text, whether it was a story in our textbook, a library book, or an article, I began to use sticky notes (which teachers love by the way) as a way to keep my students involved and "active" during reading. Each sticky note represented a different way to interact with the text. If something was exciting, you would place the question mark on the part of the passage. If you had a question, you would place the question mark and so on. That would help students, even reluctant ones, participate in classroom discussions. It was also a way for me to see if students were following along with instruction. This was a great way to give all my students a way to participate in class.
As I progressed through my career, I became a Literacy Coach which is someone who mentors, coaches, and trains teachers in best literacy practices. To help my teachers get their students involved in the learning I introduced the same concept and even made them the Mark It booklets for their class. For my novice teachers it helped with their questioning and class participation and for veteran teachers, it helped liven up their instruction. The amount of years in the classroom did not matter because a great resource is a great resource.
One random day I was talking to my husband about this resource and he asked me to make him one because he is an avid reader. I found that request interesting and decided to show my mom the tool, explain my husband's request, and get her opinion. She immediately told me three things:
1. Stop sharing the tool
2. Write out each step
3. Get a Copyright to protect the written content
So I did.
So...A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging©?
After I completed those three tasks, I hired a Graphic Artist, explained my vision and A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging was born (we call it ARE You for short). I have received my Copyright from the Library of Congress and my State of Tennessee trademark received for the name and the Federal Trademark is in process.
A strategy that I used in my classroom to help my students engage and become active readers is now available for teachers and parents all over the country and the world to help their students/children better engage with text messages. This is so important since students today now have to switch their reading habits from a computer, laptop, or smartphone to reading a book. Believe me, reading a book requires a different type of focus and concentration versus technology.
It is always great to hear from colleagues who have purchased the A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging© to use within their classroom instruction. This is a teacher testimony from CH who teaches 2nd Grade in Rutherford County. She purchased A.R.E. You after returning from maternity leave to ensure she was delivering high-quality instruction after her absence. Her text says it all! A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging not only engages all students but it offers extra support to those students who may not be on grade level and need additional support in order to fully participate in class. "Heaven" is the word she used just in case you missed it.
Along with creating resources to address the literacy needs of our students, I also wrote a Social and Emotional Learning program titled, Who Are You? A Guide to Help You Navigate Through the Social and Emotional Issues of Life.
How Did Who Are You Come About?
From my years as an educator, I have come to realize that our students crave our attention more than they crave our content knowledge. As pop culture steadily evolves, our students are exposed to many messages with some of those messages promoting negative behaviors. Without anyone to guide and direct our students in which way to turn, they fall victim to the negative images they see and hear. After witnessing the decline in student behavior year after year, I began to ask my students, “Who Are You?” This question was important since student had to think about it especially when trying to determine the motive for certain behaviors. This prompted the creation of a program to use with students as a way to get them to self-reflect on their attitudes and their behaviors. In most instances after students took some time to reflect, they realized that the behaviors they were exhibiting were unlike them and not necessarily behaviors that made them proud. I was surprised at how many of my students displayed behaviors because they saw someone they admired display the same type of behavior.
Who Are You addresses the five competencies that make up the Social and Emotional Learning Framework, which are self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. As students work through the program they will examine their self-worth, goals, character, and how they see their life with readings and activities based on best practice guidelines. This program was created to encourage students to interact with their peers and their teachers(mentors or counselors) through activities and discussions in an effort to build authentic relationships that are based on individual understandings that develop as students go through the program.
Meet the Founder
With over a decade of literacy experience, Erica Battle received her BS in Mass Communications and Journalism from Tennessee State University, her Master’s in the Art of Teaching from Trevecca Nazarene University and completed the coursework in Educational Leadership from Lipscomb University.
Understanding that student success stems from how they view themselves and how they perceive their peers led Erica to develop Who Are You, A Guide to Help Adolescents Navigate Through the Social and Emotional Issues of Life. Who Are You is Erica’s answer to poignant questions that youth and young adults face daily. This program provides a safe space to discuss pressing topics that are rarely discussed. Her motivation lies in the philosophy that “if you can help our youth and young adults see their values, they will become empowered to create a vision for their life based on how they see themselves versus outside opinions.”
A strong believer in teacher reflection, she currently consults with middle schools and enrichment programs in Tennessee training and mentoring teachers on the importance of meaningful classroom experiences. Understanding that a meaningful classroom practice stems from reflective practice, Erica conducts training sessions focused on data-driven instruction that leads to reflective practice, creating a climate for success, and how to implement literacy skills in cross-curriculum content areas.
Her current projects include the release of her first Social Emotional Learning Curriculum entitled, Who Are You? A Guide to Help Adolescents Navigate Through the Social and Emotional Issues of Life currently being used by schools and mentoring programs throughout Tennessee. Erica has also created and copyrighted, A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging, a literacy tool that encourages readers to be active and engaged readers along with publishing a workbook of partner Graphic Organizers that assist teachers with explicitly teaching each literacy strategy to encourage mastery. These materials are also in use in schools throughout Tennessee.
What will I do with the funds?
As an educator, I make a decent living to take care of my family but trying to run a full-fledged company is a whole other story. It takes additional finances and time that I don't have at this point. There have been times that I would have loved to donate the tools to non-profit organizations that service low-income families but do not have the extra resources to do so. So the funds would help me:
1. Expand production of the A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging as well as Who Are You and their partner resources.
2. Translate the A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging literacy tool into other languages so the tool is available to persons that speak different languages.
3. Have the capacity to donate A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging and Who Are You along with some training to a few organizations that service low performing areas to help increase literacy achievement while addressing their Social and Emotional needs.
4. Attend Educational Conferences and Forums to help spread the word about A.R.E. You Actively Reading and Engaging and Who Are You.
These are just some of the reasons why I need your support.
If you are wondering why you should help me, think about the current state of literacy in our country. If you are not bothered by the low literacy achievement, think of the overall morale of our countries youth. I have seen more fights and disrespectful behavior on the internet in the last year than I saw my entire childhood growing up. It's as if our children are lost with no one helping them find their way. If there was a way to encourage active reading among students along with giving parents a tool to interact with their children when they are reading, wouldn't you want to support it? Let's work together to bring about social change in not only academics but in character education as well. Believe me, I take nothing for granted and the simple fact that I have gotten this far amazes me so no contribution is too small and no contribution is too big for that matter! Just know that I appreciate your gift.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story and your support is appreciated.
Check out my website: www.battleconsulting.net