Community, Creole Cuisine and Creating a Culture of Literacy

The brass band has come to represent the real distinctiveness of New Orleans and what a wonderful NOLA welcome we had at this year’s ILA conference! Of course they had a band on opening night and of course they were serving Creole cuisine at lunch too!

Texthelp at the ILA Conference, three texthelpers standing at the booth in New Orleans

The theme for the 2019 International Literacy Association (ILA) Conference was Creating a Culture of Literacy. ILA believes that when literacy is infused in every aspect of education, it creates an environment where students can reach their full potential and sets them up for success in the classroom and beyond. And at Texthelp, we couldn’t agree more.

Regardless of an individual student’s ability and aspirations, literacy is a fundamental part of every young person’s learning journey throughout K-12 and beyond. The ability to read and write with confidence impacts all aspects of a child’s academic, social and personal development, from the early years right through to graduation and later life.

This is underpinned by ILA’s ethos when they state, “to become fully literate in today’s world, students must become proficient in the new literacies as well...literacy educators have a responsibility to integrate information and communication technologies into the curriculum to prepare students for the futures they deserve.”

So how do we create a culture of literacy?

As we attended the sessions, it became clear that the resonating response across the whole conference was one of equity, access, relevance and joyful interaction.


Pedro Noguera took to the main stage early on Saturday morning.  He shared with us that equity is not ensuring that all children receive the same thing, but rather about ensuring that every child gets what he or she needs in order to succeed. So it’s about meeting your students where they are, accepting the ways they need to learn and providing them access to the tools and materials they require in order to progress.

It’s about future proofing literacy too.  He said, “Ensuring that all students receive an education that cultivates their talents and potential is in all our common interest. Strong literacy skills - reading, writing, speaking are the key to a strong education.”

Cultivating a desire to learn is how we break down barriers…


Excitingly, technology has added another dimension to the equation, as it opens up a much broader and richer array of resources and information. Equity of access now includes access to devices to use digital content and connect and collaborate with fellow students, educators and experts all over the world. 

Technology can be used to find, analyze, create, communicate, and use information in a digital context to support literacy across learning, in particular:

  • Tools for reading
  • Tools for writing
  • Tools for listening and talking
  • Finding and using information
  • Understanding, analyzing and evaluating
  • Enjoyment and choice
  • Creating texts
  • Organizing and using information


Literacy means a whole lot more than just getting better English grades. Giving kids the confidence – and the appropriate supports – to read, write and express their thoughts with clarity has a direct bearing on their engagement and progress across all subject areas.  So does relevance too.

Educators need to tap into their needs and interests to make literacy relevant for all students. It helps to foster curiosity and creativity.  Students need to see themselves, and their own culture, reflected in the materials that they study.  Each child has the potential to craft a unique voice, and to make that voice heard across the curriculum.

Joyful interaction

It takes a community!  The real joy in fostering a positive culture of literacy means that the job doesn’t simply fall to the ELA department or library.  It’s about buy-in from all levels...students, teachers and parents.

  • For the student - Joy in taking ownership of and driving their own learning, collaborating with their peers
  • For the teacher - The joy of witnessing a busy classroom of learning
  • For Hamish Brewer - The joy of relentless spirit, relentless optimism and relentless love, “of never giving up on ourselves, each other or our school.”

“Don’t ever quit on a kid”, he says, “give them the opportunity to read, give them the opportunity to write, give them the opportunity to change the world.” 

The wonderful power of literacy really has the ability to change lives, to be completely transformative.  It allows:

  • Helps lift individuals out of poverty
  • Improves the development of the wider community
  • Empowers students to take part in and take charge of their own learning and their destiny 

“There has never been a more important time for literacy to be front and center.” 

If you were as inspired as we were at this year’s ILA - we’d love you to share your thoughts on how we can create a culture of literacy.

AND...if you missed our session at ILA, ‘Beyond the Red Pen, providing feedback that deepens learning then watch this space...we’ll be hosting a webinar with Mark Schwartz and Amy Mayer in the next couple of weeks.