Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Joy of Literature and Literacy Conference: Keynote Speaker Lester Laminack

      I wanted to share about a wonderful experience that I recently had at a professional conference. The conference was the second annual Joy of Children's Literature and Literacy at the College of William and Mary. This wonderful event was coordinated by Dr. Denise Johnson of William and Mary's School of Education. She is a professor of Reading, Language, and Literacy. Dr. Johnson invited me to introduce author Lester Laminack who was the conference's keynote speaker. I was honored to have this opportunity! Here is the majority of the introduction that I gave for Mr. Laminack:

       It is our great fortune to hear Lester Laminack speak to us today for the keynote presentation entitled “Let Common Sense Be Our Guide: I Have a Dream for America’s Schools.”  Lester is a renowned expert on reading and writing instruction. He is a Professor Emeritus at Western Carolina University. Lester taught courses in writing workshop, reading, and children's literature. He is a frequent presenter across the country.

       Lester is an author of well-respected professional texts, articles, and children’s books. Lester served as the co-editor of Primary Voices for three years, as well as the editor of the children’s book reviews for the publication Language Arts from 2003-2006.

      Crafting children's books is one of Lester’s many talents. They are favorites with teachers for reading and writing mini-lessons. They are published by Peachtree Publishers and include titles such as :

     Among its many accolades, Three Hens and a Peacock was awarded the Children's Book Council Award for Kindergarten to 2nd grade Book of the Year in May 2012. (You can learn more about the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award Gala through this YouTube link.) 


      Not only is Mr. Laminack an accomplished author of children’s books, but he is a skilled writer of professional texts as well. One of the professional titles Mr. Laminack has written and collaborated on is The Writing Workshop: Working Through the Hard Parts (And They're All Hard Parts) This was written in collaboration with Katie Wood Ray and published by NCTE in 2001.

·            Titles which were published by Heinemann include Reading Aloud Across the Curriculum and Learning Under the Influence of Language and Literature. These texts are both written in collaboration with Reba Wadsworth.  Mr. Laminack collaborated with Georgia Heard on a study of the crafting of poetry writing in Climb Inside a Poem: Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year.

       One of Lester’s professional titles published by Scholastic include Cracking Open the Author's Craft: Teaching the Art of Writing. It is not only a teacher guide for how to examine his mentor text Saturdays and Teacakes but it also explains how to apply various studies of audible and visual author’s craft with other mentor texts.  The follow-up title is entitled Unwrapping the Read Aloud: Making Every Read Aloud Intentional and Instructional. In this text, Lester highlights the intensity, tone, pace, and mood of quality read alouds.

            Mr. Laminack's most recent professional text is a collaboration with Reba Wadsworth and is also published by Heinemann. It is entitled Bullying Hurts: Teaching Kindness Through Read Alouds and Guided Conversations.

·       This year, Lester also co-wrote with Reba Wadsworth The Classroom Library Book for the Classroom Library Company.  You can view a sample of the text through the Classroom Library’s app for the iPad and iPhone.

     Lester is not only an author, he is what I would consider to be a “teacher’s teacher.” He passionately promotes collaboration among educators in order to promote the development of great ideas for teaching. He advocates for educators and respects their vast knowledge and skills as professionals.

     He is steadfast in his beliefs that reading aloud to children is powerful and life changing, and that it is critical to the growth and development of children into skillful students. Lester highly promotes the use of great picture books for instruction as this fosters the idea of providing real mentors for children.  He talks with students as if they are fellow authors standing side by side in the journey of composing writing.   Lester is a master of reaching the reader and pulling them right into his books.

Lester believes in something that I tell children I work with in writing workshops: “You make the ordinary extraordinary just by writing it down.” Every day events and memories hold importance and they are worthy of capturing in writing. He promotes the notion that in order to be a great writer, you must be a ravenous reader.

As a presenter and author, he mentors fellow educators and children alike. Whether you have had the great fortune of hearing Lester speak before or if this is your first time, you will undoubtedly find what he has to say to be compelling. Lester is genuine in his compassion for others and respects every adult and child for what makes them unique as a person.

     I highly recommend that if you need your “teacher soul” to be encouraged and renewed, reread your favorite Lester Laminack professional books. I particularly recommend that you read his closing essays which he wrote in his Scholastic professional titles.  You will never tire of his messages and how he encourages you as a teacher. He will passionately remind us all that school is about more than test scores and accountability.  Lester stokes our fire within to educate and nurture the future.

     If you have ever had the great fortune of hearing Lester speak in person, you are well aware of how captivating he is. He can touch your heart as you connect to his loving memories of his grandmother as he discusses his inspiration for Saturdays and Teacakes. Lester can invigorate your sense of advocacy as he shares stories that served as motivation for Bullying Hurts. His sense of humor and comedic timing engages you and gives you laughter that warms your soul.

    Something that Lester shared with the crowd at the conference was the notion that we read because it matters, and that you must instill in your students the sense of how will they be altered after reading a powerful story. Lester also encouraged us all to keep asking those in-depth questions which activate critical thinking skills.
He also shared that when you share a book aloud with your students, that you are "no longer standing on the banks of the story, you jump into the current."  He ended his session with a wonderful piece he originally wrote in 2008 called, "Toward a New Vision for Our Children and Their Schools: I Have a Dream." You can read this speech in its entirety via the Classroom Library Company website. 

    What to learn more about Lester's works?  You can enjoy listening to Lester read aloud from Saturdays and Teacakes from this link from Scholastic. Also, be sure to click on the titles of the picture books and professional titles to learn more about the books and to read samples of the texts. If you are interested in the app which shows a sample of Lester and Reba's Book The Classroom Library Book, you can download the app for 99 cents through the App Store and read the first 19 pages of the book through the home screen. The full book is available through the company online.

    Here are some wonderful links to go explore to learn more about Dr. Denise Johnson's work I am so fortunate that I have not only experienced her as an amazing professor, but I also consider her a dear professional friend. :)
      In my next post, I will share about a mentor text lesson where I recently used one of Lester Laminack's books in a Lit. Coaching lesson with a class. :)  Please stay tuned!

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