Adventures with Texas Authors: The Spirit of Texas Reading Program

IMG_0410[1]A selection of books by authors from the 2015 Spirit of Texas Reading Program Middle School List.

If you are not familiar with the Spirit of Texas Reading Program (SPOT), I highly encourage you to check out the program webpage for an array of creative programming resources, even if you are not from Texas. The program selects six authors annually at the middle school and high school level who are either from Texas, have lived in Texas, or write about Texas or Texans. While the relationship with Texas determines an author’s eligibility for the list, the lessons, resources, and activities do not necessarily relate to Texas and thus are a treasure trove for any librarian looking for engaging programming.

The 2016 authors were recently announced – you can check them out here:

Spirit of Texas Reading Program – Middle School
Spirit of Texas Reading Program – High School

As a member of the Spirit of Texas Middle School Committee, I can assure you that we work hard to provide a thorough resource package for each of the authors on the list including a passive program (one that it’s easy for students to do independently), an active program (like a library party or event), and a school program (linked to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – TEKS – for a variety of subject areas). Again, all of the lessons and activities could easily be modified for libraries outside of Texas. You will also find book trailers, author videos and extensive resource lists/read-alike suggestions. The programming from past years is also available.

It’s an outstanding resource for any librarian looking for some inspiration and tools to introduce students to new books and authors and I highly recommend it.

The Spirit of Texas Reading Program is a part of the Texas Library Association Young Adult Round Table. I am currently serving on the SPOT Middle School Committee.

The World is Waiting for You… and Me! Or, my philosophy of education.

When considering my philosophy of teaching and learning, I immediately think of the IB Learner Profile. Teachers have the ability to change the world through the lives of the students they teach. This is not only an enormous responsibility, but also a tremendous honor. As educators, we must consistently model the attributes in order to instill them in our students and ensure they become responsible participants in the global community.

This philosophy is summarized nicely in Barbara Kerley’s highly acclaimed picture book The World is Waiting for You. Kerley’s photojournalistic style engages readers with limited text and brilliant pictures. It is through these vibrant photographs that she tells the story (which mirrors my teaching philosophy) that one must get out into the world and “Sift. Scrape…get your hands dirty,” in order to truly become an engaged learner (2013). The pages are filled with inquirers begging questions like “What’s waiting?” around a corner, on the other side of the mountain, or at the end of a long road. Risk-takers make the decision to “Poke around for a while… [and] See where the river takes [them]” as the underlying message permeates the text: hard work will pay off in time, though challenges will present themselves on the journey (2013). In each picture, children and adults are active, messy, adventurous, and experiencing the wonders the world has to offer. Not one of them is sitting in a desk, or even in a classroom. This array of rich experiences is the link between Kerley’s perspective and my philosophy. Learning happens as we explore relevant questions and seek out their answers, preferably in a hands-on manner.

In order to be an effective educator, I must demonstrate these attributes and serve as an example for lifelong learning. Students must see me act in a principled fashion, and respect the knowledge and wealth of experiences I bring to the lesson. As reflective learners, my students and I learn together, and evaluate our successes while also understanding that one cannot truly learn without first meeting failure. This failure is not in the sense of earning a grade, but as a part of the design process; we investigate, evaluate and re-design until we reach a conclusion or find a solution to the problem.

Finally, I believe that teachers must have a passion for both their subject and the learning process. I embrace education with enthusiasm in both my innovative lesson design, and my ability to create enriching interdisciplinary experiences. Learners must have ownership in their learning and the interdisciplinary platform provides an opportunity for all subject areas to work together in order to form a larger, global, understanding. While it is important for me to share my passion with my students, it is also important for me to serve as a campus leader and engage others in the ongoing inquiry process.

Kerley, Barbara. The World Is Waiting for You. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2013. Print.

FTC Disclaimer: I own a self-purchased copy of this book and chose to review it without compensation from the publisher; all of my reviews reflect my personal opinion.