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Leaders As Readers

From reading the newspaper and tackling homework to scanning social media, literacy is an ever-evolving skill. Middle school student leaders at East Broad Street School in Savannah are sharing their passion for literacy with other students through the Teens for Literacy initiative, led by Armstrong’s College of Education.

“The Teens for Literacy program provides a forum for students to empower their peers and their community regarding the importance of literacy,” says Assistant Professor of Childhood and Exceptional Student Education Anne Katz, who serves as the program’s faculty advisor. “Middle school students have strengthened their literacy skills and displayed growth as leaders, creative thinkers and public speakers.”

Thirteen middle school students are chosen every year to serve as a leadership team at East Broad. The students participate in a variety of literacy-focused activities, such as a recent Banned Book Week field trip to the Bull Street Library, in which they researched and read excerpts from once censored literature to library patrons. Other projects include the creation of video book trailers and introduction of local children’s book authors to the school community.

Armstrong students gain the added benefit of applying theory to practice. One of this year’s highlights involves 10 Armstrong first-year students from the College of Education’s Living Learning Community, an innovative program headed by Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education Lynn Roberts. 

“I believe that the program will foster success in my field,” says Taiylar Hibbard, a Living Learning Community member who aspires to be a health and physical education teacher. “It emphasizes the points that are made in our lessons,” helping students make real-world connections.

Armstrong students spent the semester exchanging pen pal letters with East Broad student leaders, sharing insights about school, reading, writing, college life and the Young Reader’s middle school edition of the Common Read book I Am Malala. Armstrong students visited East Broad in October. In November, East Broad students will come to Armstrong to participate in Professor Roberts’ class.

“We discussed not only the Malala book, but also shared reflections on our experiences as students,” says Jasmin Laney, an early childhood education major at Armstrong. “The visit was very successful. We had the opportunity to put a face with a letter and to encourage one another in future scholastic pursuits.”

For literacy in the Savannah community, Armstrong’s partnership with East Broad is only the beginning. Katz, who received a Dollar General Youth Literacy Grant and a grant from the Susan W. Thompson Literacy Fund from the Savannah Community Foundation, will apply the resources towards book purchases for projects and a Shadowing Day on campus to introduce middle school students to the university experience.

She is also currently serving as an advisor to launch Teen for Literacy programs at Port Wentworth Fresh Start Elementary School and Claxton Middle School this year.

“Teens for Literacy provides a meaningful platform for Armstrong students to participate in and support community literacy endeavors,” says Katz.

Jennifer Zettler

“I love interaction with the students.”

Jennifer Zettler
Teaching since: 2002