Building a community that values reading, writing, sharing and listening to stories lays the foundation for tolerance, creativity, innovation and joy. A strong literacy culture spreads through individuals sharing the joy and love for reading and writing. We see our LitClub and LitCamp children and teens acting as literacy leaders every day in their own communities. LitClub grads become library leaders and junior LitClub mentors for younger children and LitCampers aspire to become LitCamp counselors to follow in the footsteps of their beloved teen counselors. Here are 5 ways to cultivate your child's literacy leadership.
1. Find Diverse Mentors
Whether it is a grandparent, an older sibling, a neighbor, local bookstore owner or another inspiring leader, surround your child with people who are active in your community and passionate about reading. Have these role models talk to your child about the things they care about, sharing what inspired them to engage in community service and the steps they took to get where they are today. Have each mentor highlight how reading and writing play a role in the work they do and set up a time for you and your child to volunteer together in support of each mentor's organization or cause.
2. Learn About Great Leaders in History
Learning about great leaders will show your child that leadership can take many different forms. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Jane Goodall to Wangari Maathai, expose your child to a diverse group of change-makers. Learn about each leader's passion and inspiration and talk about the different tactics they used to change their community and our world. Through this exploration your child will discover that no two are exactly the same and that each had a very different leadership style. Yet all leaders use their literacy to communicate their vision for change and to rally others to take up their cause.
3. Make it a Group Activity
Taking action in the community can and should be done with friends. Your child is at her most comfortable when surrounded by the people she loves and trusts. Whether it's organizing a book swap in the community, taking a group reading challenge or volunteering to read aloud with younger children at the library, help your child and her friends research opportunities to get involved with the community as a group. Having the support of peers allows your child to build confidence as a leader and to build strong memories with friends that are centered around civic engagement.
4. Re-imagine the Lemonade Stand
As tasty and refreshing as lemonade stands can be, your community is ready for a new curbside attraction. Devote a weekend to a literacy-themed booth on your front lawn (or apartment lobby). One great way to offer a reading treat to your neighbors is free read alouds. Pick some of your child's favorite titles (for these are the books he will feel most confident reading aloud) and set up a cozy reading blanket or cluster of lawn chairs. Your child will feel like a reading hero when younger children are captivated by his reading or when older children and adults thank him for reminding them of the joy and relaxation that comes from hearing a story read aloud.
5. Make Leadership Rooted in Love
We are all searching for ways to connect to others and to our world. This connection comes from finding what we truly care about, defining what we value and using this as the center of our life's work. Learning to cultivate these passions and to take action to nurture and protect these interests is the route to leadership and civic engagement. Does your child love animals? Contact a local animal shelter or environmental group to see if they have children's or family programs. Pair your child's participation in volunteer or after school programs with reading and writing exploration. Find newspaper articles or blogs related to each issue to familiarize your child with current events related to what he cares about and encourage him to write his opinion in response to what he learns either in a personal notebook, in a letter to the editor or on a blog.