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2024 AMERICAN READING FORUM CONFERENCE

Wednesday, December 11 - Saturday, December 14, 2024

The Dolphin Beach Resort, St. Pete Beach

Mindful Literacy: Literacy as an Umbrella for the Whole Person

 

Program Co-Chairs: Dr. Megan Adams, Dr. Allison Garefino, Dr. Paula Guerra, Dr. Virginie Jackson, & Dr. Sanjuana Rodriguez, Kennesaw State University

 

A recent New York Times article described how somatic experiences, a focus on the

physical, may be the key to improving mental health and addressing emotional needs (Dominus,

2023). Experts in psychology and trauma sensitive teaching and learning have known this for

years (Payne et al., 2015; Treleaven, 2012). Many books for young children provide space for

teaching somatic experience (i.e. The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story; Kiyoshi’s Walk). Following

the upheaval and isolation of COVID-19, however, the immediate concerns of the education

community have changed. Trauma sensitive teaching and understanding the mental health needs

of all children is more than a moral imperative; it is now needed to sustain teachers and maintain

systems of education (Fisher et al., 2020; Kuhfield & Tarasawa, 2020). In literacy classrooms P-

12, researchers are seeing children underperforming in large part due to increased numbers of

children not having basic needs met (Barnes et al., 2022; Maslow, 1987).

The COVID pandemic continues to have an adverse effect on the literacy environments

in which children learn and grow. Teachers noted that the pandemic had a profound impact on

the social and emotional growth of students, putting their development at risk (McGee et al.,

2022). UNESCO notes that the school closures associated with the pandemic have negatively

affected learning by depriving children of opportunities to grow and develop socially. Studies

note that skills gained from SEL, including self-management, responsible decision-making, and

relationship skills extend far beyond the classroom (Varghese & Natsuaki, 2021). In literacy

classrooms, self-management and relationship skills are necessary for successful small-group

literacy instruction but are also needed for students to do the independent work demanded when

gaining literacy skills (Pressley et al., 2023).

Teacher educators and colleagues come together annually to discuss how to make the

lives of literacy teachers and children better. However, many mental health experts encourage us

to consider self-care prior to caring for others (NIH, 2023). With this in mind, our team envisions ARF 2024 as a time to spend time thinking about not only “whole child” wellness through literacy, but “whole system” wellness. What might a joy-sustaining literacy classroom look like? A joy-sustaining school? A joy-sustaining teacher education program? We envision ARF 2024 as a time for discussion and healing.

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