#Educadia – The Unconference

Logo Draft #2

It started out as panic. Brain powering through so many questions. So many ideas. A small jolt of stress coursed through my body.

The theory making #2 assignment was the light that led me to the question which was used to place me in a workshop group. My workshop group got busy brainstorming – along with the professor.  We came to realize our questions led to a central theme. We focused on social-emotional learning, centralizing on project based learning as our drive in the workshop discussion. During the second class working on the workshops, my group was able to wrap up what information we wanted to have. Once we finished the proposal, we knew that we were very well on track. The proposal was the document that assured me my workshop group was well prepared for the unconference.

The night of the unconference rolled around. My workshop group knew how we were going to begin our workshop, we knew the questions we had to keep the discussion going, but we agreed to wing it. By winging it, we meant that we would be going along as the discussion took its course. Twenty minutes was not long at all. We presented our opening questioning: What classroom lesson from grade school do you remember well? That sparked memories to share.  After a few minutes of sharing, the workshop crew made the connection to the central topic; the lessons that were shared had the students involved – physically and/or personally.  The discussion went off about how social learning is an essential part of school. Academics are important, but so is the social aspect. It was even argued that social interaction is more important than academics.

The conversation that happened was on the topic of social development, but it was a different spin than the one which I had started with. My brain was going towards making the lessons in the classroom more hands on. Incorporating as much project based learning with the lessons that Common Core requires of teachers and students to cover throughout the year. Yet, what was mostly being talked about was the social aspect of school. Having time to talk with friends, having the time to teach general manners, and make sure that students learn how to control their emotions. We touched upon the pressure students are under these days. The rate of suicides in young adults and children are sky rocketing because the government is pushing academics and testing over and over again. Teachers are forced to concentrate in materials that will make the students achieve a high grade on the tests, leaving no room for essential life skills.

Life skills are important. An observation of the rude behavior that is progressing throughout the new generations and starting at younger and younger age groups was mentioned. We came to the conclusion that students are spending more time in a classroom than at home with parents. Logically, it would be stated that teachers are then responsible to teach the ways of society – politeness, respect for elders, peers and your self – but how can this be asked of teachers when they have no room to do so?

Research has proven that children need to socialize in order to learn how to interact with one another. It is a major part of how they will learn in the classroom as well. Children are energetic and they need to take that energy out somehow.

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Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to sit in on a full workshop, but as I went around floor to floor, I stood outside the door and heard bits of the discussions and/or presentations taking place. I was impressed by the various topics being presented. The workshop Let the Game Begin was focusing on video games and the violence that many have. They were semi-targeting the idea that the violent video games are made for certain ages, typically adults, yet many parents were letting children play them. All of a sudden it was brought to light the fact that there are educational games made for young children such as Leap Frog. We can’t forget about those, and I agree with the fact that these are the games that should be emphasized in social media and classrooms instead of the violent games.

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This uncoference was a great experience. The workshops that were explored all had a story to tell. Each presenter had an idea they wanted to share and it was actively done through the discussions that were allowed to take place. By having these presentations we were able to create an educational community to share what we found important when it came to teaching. I must point out that this unconference led the whole class to be encouraging and supportive of one another.

Connections are Power

power

In order to tell any story, one must know what a story consists of. According to Aaron Shepard, a story will have a theme, a plot, a story structure, characters, setting(s), and style and tone. A good writer will know these areas of his/her story well. As the writer, in order to take the story to the next level, will need five elements to make it powerful.

  1. The story must resonate within us.
    • Connecting to the soul
    • Thread it to the story of humanity
  2. The story will show the light and the dark.
    • The hero is invincible
    • The villain is the very definition of evil
    • Rare to be done, but possible to do
  3. The story will point to a greater cause.
    • Purpose is greater than own well being
    • It is a common goal
  4. The story will teach – but in a different way.
    • Honest and open lives make it engaging
    • Being open to true self
  5. The story will leave room for interpretation.
    • No explanation for quick answers
    • Allow for readers’ own ideas and ask questions

The five elements is what we should strive to teach children. With these five elements in mind, teachers can create a foundation on which construction will never stop. Teaching these elements does not have to only be taught during writing workshops. It can be taught during reading. Think about it, you can teach these elements to kindergarteners. It sounds like a young age to bring such abstract topics to a five year old, but it is the delivery that will make it affective. During read-a-loud time, the teacher can very easily have the students reflect on the story through questions. Ask them how they feel about what was read to them and take it a step further to ask them why he/she thinks they feel like so. This is the process of connecting and interpreting the reading at the first level. Having a connection to a reading – or a story in whatever method told – means to have emotion(s) stir inside. A kindergartener is aware of the basic emotions and they can very well tell you how they are feeling. When you ask them why a character may have done something it is creating room for interpretation. Children’s books do have more of an upfront reason for the actions of characters, usually it is to teach desired behavior in society, but that does not mean that it can be interpreted.

Teachers should ask the students to share their thoughts and have an open mind about the answers they may receive. An interpretation does not have to be right; it just has to be supported. Interpretations are built from an individual’s experiences, culture, and/or social environment.  The author will have an overall theme and have one point for writing the story, but that should not mean that the interpretation of one student being different than the teacher’s and the writer’s has to be completely wrong. As long as they can find supporting details in the book to prove their point, why can it not be correct in their eyes?

Interpretations relate to connections.

Connections.

That is a powerful word when it comes to powerful stories. Connecting to the character or the plot will change how the reader views the story. It will open windows that may otherwise not have been seen. Connections in the stories we tell everyday are powerful within themselves. Michael Hyatt explains the importance of connections in our society in a concise and short manner.

“With the power of social media, this is the new direction of business and relationships. People connect with other people. It’s no coincidence that people and companies who tell powerful stories are the ones who have the most passionate tribes. We desire to be known, and to know others.”

Connections in books help them be more enjoyable. Connections in the “real” world make it easier to succeed. Having a friend who knows a friend that works for the CEO of X company will make it much easier to find a job there. Connections do not only help us move up in life. They also help us stay in touch with our humanity. We want to know others and for them to know us. Upon meeting new people it is a similarity – a connection, a spark – that allows for a conversation to occur. If more connections are found then a relationship develops. You are friends with those similar to you. Your significant other is someone like you. You sympathize or even empathize with others when connections are made. Sad events, happy events, thriller events will make people come closer. In the same way that stories make people come closer. Those who relate to the character will find they can relate to those reading the same story. Connections are the glue for human beings. It is the magnet that pulls us in as human beings.

Having connections with others is a natural part of us. This is the lens that can help teach children how powerful stories are created. If we can have students write an autobiography with a fictional aspect (to make it fun), it can help them learn to put a part of themselves in future writing to make it more powerful.

http://www.aaronshep.com/youngauthor/elements.html

http://michaelhyatt.com/5-elements-of-powerful-stories.html

Spreading Blue

blue flower

Two years after Kira met her father.

Kira finds herself locked away in her room on a rainy afternoon. Sitting by the window with her lamp on, attempting to gain the most light she could continue to work. Hands cramped, dyed and trembling fingers working slowly up along the soft fabric. No longer are reds and oranges creating fires found on the fabric. The last of the fires has been experienced. Building upon building has fallen to ashes. The Council Edifice vanished from society; cots burning everywhere, the Fen and the village the same; no distinction in wealth. Just multiple shades of blues and greens creating a world unfamiliar to the new formed community. Each thread creating the beauty of the stream calmly trickling down alongside the forest green landscape. Hands supporting the foundations for the buildings. Hands guiding one another through darkness.

A knock at the door pulled Kira out from her work trance. “Come in,” Kira said.

“Hi. Busy much?” Thomas asked.

“I’m almost done with the robe. We must do this soon. While it is fresh in their minds or else they will elect a new leader and have it be their way. We cannot let Vandara govern them. DO you know the kind of disaster that would come from that?”

“I am polishing the staff. The details that my hands created are better than I thought I would make. It’s much like my first carving.”

“Yes. My hands have been doing their own thing. I only pick the color and they do the rest. Thank you for coming with me, Thomas.”

“No need to thank me. You have the genes to be a great leader. Look at how many people you have inspired.”

“Yes, but this needs to get done now. Before we lose those we have finally recognize the horrific events happening under the surface.”

“Take a break for lunch. Jo has been asking for you.”

“I will. My stomach is making more noises than I want.”

Thomas and Kira left the room laughing and in search of food.

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Upon entering the mess hall, they heard beautiful singing. Jo was surrounded by individuals who appeared to be statues. They were fascinated by the powerful voice that came from such a small creature. Thomas and Kira went to grab their lunch before heading over to Jo who immediately stopped singing and yelled “Kira!” That broke the spell, making everyone else get back to their prior activities.

“I am ready to sing my song,” Jo commented excitedly.

“Great. Make sure you keep it a secret one more day. Tomorrow morning you will be able to sing it to everyone here,” Kira responded.

“Oh, boy. This is very fun”, Jo giggled.

Lunch was over faster than anyone could have imagined. Thomas, Kira and Jo retrieved to their rooms to perfect their gifts for the following day. When night fell, Thomas and Kira went to Jo’s room to read a bed time story. As it was a new tradition the three of them had. Jo seemed to talk about her mom without asking where she went.

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 At first light, Kira’s eyes were opened. She sprung from her bed and began to prepare herself. The grand day has finally arrived, Kira thought. She had worked long hours every day to have the robe finished. When Kira was ready she headed towards the Jo’s room.

“Hi Kira,” Jo said. “Can I finally see it?”

“Yes Jo. Today is the day you can finally see it,” replied Kira. “Have you eaten breakfast?”

“Yup.”

“Have you taken your bath?”

“Yup.”

“Okay, turn around and close your eyes. No peaking.” Kira swiftly laid the rob on Jo’s bed.

“You may turn around now.”

“Kira! It’s very pretty!” Jo exclaimed.

“Can I wear it? Oh please! I promise I will be very careful from now until the party begins.”

“Yes, you can put it on. But first change into the dress you will wear at the ceremony.”

As soon as Jo was finishing putting on the robe, there was a knock at the door. With her small innocent voice Jo asked, “Who?”

“It’s Thomas.”

“Hi Thomas” Jo said after opening the door.

“Wow! Jo that looks great on you. And it’s the perfect length. Great Job Kira,” Thomas said with a smile.

“Don’t I just look cute,” Jo said.

“Yes you do. Ready to go? I have the staff right here.” Thomas lifted his right arm slightly.

“Yes, let us wake forth together.”

Thomas, Kira, and Jo headed out of the room and down the long corridor to the stairs and down another corridor that led to the outside. They paused before the doors to wait for their cue. They were called one by one; Thomas followed by Kira and finally Jo. Each walked across the lifted ground to a chair facing all the members of the community. Jo wearing the elegant robe and holding the oversized staff began to sing her song. The song of the chaos that had stroke and the rebuilding that partook after all the fires. The song had reached its peak, the time in which every member found themselves in, but much to everyone’s surprise it did not stop there. It kept going to explain what was found on the shoulders of the robe and the top of the staff. It was a time in which the old community with the Council of Edifice no longer excited for it had accepted the customs of the community located over yonder. A new and larger community was created on the very soil that they stood on; a community that accepted all individuals – no matter how old, young, weak, or strong, they are. Nor let abnormal appearances make the decision whether the individual was condemned to die without given a chance of proving him/herself.

When the song ended, the trance was still present. Not one single member moved. No tyke cried. All was still. All was silent. Moments passed until a young man of, appearing o be three syllables stood up and applauded. Many followed. Some did not. Vandara walked towards the elevated ground and began screaming, “How can this be? You cannot side with this worthless girl. She was the cause of our homes burning down! She set the Council on fire.”

“Do not call my daughter a worthless girl. She has a gift that is beyond anything you can do. She was not the only one to burn down your village. I, Christopher was a participant,” he spoke.

“So, was I!” Jonahs exclaimed from the audience. Making others speak up about their role in destroying what the Council of Edifice had built.

“Vandara!” said one of the women. “Think about how much freedom we have here. There are no bells telling us when to go to work or when to be home. We all have a say in what should happen with the village.”

While Vandara was distracted with the women, two men came and dragged Vandara of the elevated ground. She struggled the whole time. Christopher spoke once more, “I think Vandara needs to be taken to her cot to think about where she wants to be.”

“Yes,” the crowd replied.

And with that Vandara was assisted to her cot where she remained locked away for the length of two days. Refusing to eat or talk to anyone who came to visit. On the third day she fell ill and died within three days from starvation and a bad immune system. With her gone all the women who once followed her no followed what they wanted to do and what they thought. From the hope that three children provided, world where there was acceptance and opportunities began to prosper.

Gathering Blue

blue yarn

Christopher and Matt have taken off to return to the village that lies beyond the trees. A village that is different from the one Kira finds r part of. As much as Kira wanted to leave with her father and potentially meet the boy with the blue eyes Matt told her about Kira has a purpose and goal she must accomplish in her village.

Kira is the threader that will tell the future. Along with Thomas (the carver and Jo (the singer) – the future is in the hands of the three children. A future that Kira has seen in her mind and has felt in her fingers trembling to get out. She is the one to change how her village works. She will be the one to change the attitudes – the closed, brusque attitudes the village holds dear.

No longer will individuals be sent to the Field to die because they are not in the norm. No longer will the weak be discarded because they cannot fend for themselves. The injured will no longer be battling for their lives by themselves. No more.

Today the world has changed. Kira has gained information of a society in which the members care for one another. The strong don’t prey on the weak. The strong help the weak. Together they build a community that is safe and loving.

The community that Christopher is now a member of is welcoming and cares little about the flaws of its members because it is a community that has blue; not just reds, oranges, and yellows. A community with blue, is a community with trust, honesty, reliability, sincere and loyalty. There is no need to draw attention. For it seeks peace and tranquility. It is a community that promotes relaxation – physical and mental.

Kira’s journey for finding the plant to make blue dye was more than what she thought. It was a journey to come to know another world. A better world. She lost her mother and her father had been left to die in the Fields long ago, but survived. He found his way back to Kira at the moment he had to. No sooner, no later. For Kira had been opened to the cruelty her community enforced. She learned that the beasts they battle are internal. They only fear each other. But, she has a plan to change all this to have a community like it should be – balanced between good and evil. Not just deception well hidden.

The Wonderful World of Reading

In my eyes, reading has acquired a very small negative association with the younger age groups. Being cool is the priority of the younger generations because it is the method of fitting in. I cannot say everyone, but the majority of the population wants to have the latest technology; which has implicated the idea of films, video games, mp3 players, and the internet as the main sources of entertainment. Although, technology has provided society with devices dedicated to the function of reading, the audiences targeted through the advertisements have been adults.

Unfortunately, reading has not been classified as being cool in these younger generations. There are many factors that contribute to this issue – one of many is there are people who do not enjoy reading.One can not directly associate the lack of enjoyment to reading being “un-cool”.

An aspect that I believe does add to the negative association is: those who do like reading tend to be viewed, by societal definitions, as nerds, dorks, or geeks.

If one is to search for the definition of these three terms there is one common aspect to them as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary; “a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc”. This is the simple definition of a dork, but there is a little more to a nerd and a geek.

A nerd is “a person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers, etc” (Merriam-Webster).

A geek is one who is “very interested in and knows a lot about a particular field or activity” making them appear above intelligent than the majority of society. (Merriam-Webster)

I am proud to say that I will read whenever I have the time to. I will admit some of the readings that are assigned to me are not as entertaining as ones I have discovered on my own, but there have been many books that I have enjoyed a great deal reading throughout my grade school career. And if this makes me a nerd in today’s society, than be it, but I must say that none of these three terms involve a straight connection to reading. A geek could be considered as an individual who reads all the time because information can be gathered from books at the library, but in today’s world, there are many more media forms that one can obtain information about a certain topic. So, let us begin to disassociate a passion for reading with the terms dork, geek, or nerd.

We as teachers can begin with the use of new media forms to engage students to read stories. Stories began as narratives, being passed from generation through generation. They soon began to be written down. Now we can achieve access to stories online. Stories do not stop there. Films, operas, theatre productions and even music tell a story. Classical music is thought to be related as high-end society entertainment, but the composers are telling a story that anyone can unravel. All that is necessary is imagination and listening skills. Each person will have a different interpretation of the piece and that is okay because much like a written story, the reader has his/her own perspective on what was told.

Knowing these media outlets, there are connections that can be made with the stories being read. Activities can be implemented that go along with a scene or lesson in the story, or there can be a film that was made based on the book that can be compared and contrasted with the original text to deepen the meaning of the story. If there is a certain topic that the students appear to be more interested in, then take some time to implement that into your plans. Keeping the students’ curiosity vibrant will make engaging them easier. In the long run, it may not be so easy for you in planning, but it will be worth the extra effort seeing students engaged and succeeding.

One also has to remember that a story does not just have to be fiction, it can also be non-fiction. We are each writing a story just by living our lives. Stories can be short or long, the length does not matter, what does is the connections that can be built from sharing stories. These connections can strengthen a community, they can provide guidance, give an explanation to how things work, or just provide entertainment.

If one reads then one can understand the meaning of the letters, but one is also making one’s brain work in using its imagination to create images from the text. With reading, one can travel to a different world without moving. This is true of writing the story, watching a film or television show, so I should not limit it to reading. These forms of media provide an escape from the everyday life to one in which anything is possible (to create and imagine).

read aloud

Encourage the students to read by having a library in the classroom – it does not have to be a huge area, a simple bookshelf (short enough for students to reach all the shelves) with books of varying lengths and levels will do. Make the reading as relevant as it can to encourage the connections with their lives to deepen the passion of reading. Introduce new books every so often. Like it was mentioned by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley in Reading in the Wild, spice the excitement of the new book by having a lottery to see who will be the first student to read the book. A fair method so anyone interested in the book has a chance to read it. Something else may be to present awards after reading certain amount of books. Most importantly, share your passion of reading with the students. Provide class time for reading independently, with groups or as a class. My suggestion if doing independent reading would be to read a book yourself while they read theirs. When reading aloud, have props once in a while and use voice imitations to make it fun and not monotone. This will keep the students engaged and in anticipation of what will happen next. Be sure to switch the length and topics of the books so that all the students will have something to relate to every so often and the books will not drag out too long that the students will lose interest (Miller & Kelley).

Transmedia Infographic Project

Sherlock Holmes Across Time

An infograph has to do with mapping out information related to a topic in a more visual than text related presentation. In our course Literacy in the 21st Century, we are looking at transmedia, a concept that involves stories or activities that have many media outlets.

For any who would be interested in reading an adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story, I had to write one for my First Year Seminar, the link is found below.

http://mariale20.wordpress.com/

Then & Now of Literacy

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” – Carl Sagan

The world has had great changes over the centuries. There was a time when entertainment came verbally and/or through sitting around a fire watching people dance. Now we live in a time when entertainment can be seen through a device, read through a device or on printed paper, and it can be seen live. Through these changes, perception of entertainment may change from generation to generation. Part of entertainment has been literacy. I am here documenting my findings and understanding of how literacy experiences could have changed over time or if they have stayed the same in each generation. 

In finding out how each generation views literacy, I asked a family friend’s daughter, Sophie, who just turned 5 and is attending St. James Day Care. My uncle’s friend, Peter, who is 40 years old, and how I perceive literacy from a 19 (almost 20) year old female’s point of view. (Mind you, these are pseudonyms to keep their privacy.) 

Sophie lives out west, so we had the interview using technology. We had a lovely conversation through Skype. She had much to say about the questions she was being asked. After catching up, I began by asking her what games she most enjoyed playing with her family. It turns out she is a very active little girl because she loves playing freeze tag with her grandmother. She is hands-on with art projects and she “wants to have more time with [her]  friends and family to learn more things”.

Sophie enjoys reading. She reads once a day throughout the whole year. Reading and writing make her happy “because I love my family and they love me too”. Her favorite stories come down to Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. I asked her who she thought was a good reader and she responded her grandmother because she goes to school and writes about the good things she reads.

It turns out the good writer that she has come to know is herself. She is a good writer because she learns from her books. . When Sophie reads and comes to words she does not know she will find out what the words are saying to her. This is a time when she will listen to music. Some of her books will read out loud and have music to go along with the story. But this is not the only time when she will listen to music. Oh no, she likes to listen to music while she is coloring and she is getting dressed, because once she is dressed she will make her own music; “when I am done getting dressed and I have my clothes on I like to dance to the music and turn the music off and make my own music and sing it.”

music

Conversations become longer, the older the people conversing are. That was the case when I sat down to talk to Peter. By sitting down I mean in front of my computer because once again I was using technology to converse through Facebook. Peter lives in my hometown, about five hours away (by plane).

We began with his definition of a good time  with friends and family. Playing volleyball, beach volleyball, and table tennis are on the top of his list. The things he likes to do and make with his family and friends range from coming together as a family (which is big), prepare food together, tell anecdotes, and maybe watch a football or baseball game. They definitely meet up in February to watch the Super Bowl together. 

I’m not much of an athletic girl – soccer is about as much as I will watch on television, tennis I can only do live, don’t ask why – but when it comes to music, I have much more to offer. Peter listens to music in Spanish and English. He likes  80s  and 90s rock music such as Bon Jovi, Soda Stereo, and Enanitos Verdes. He also makes music of his own; he plays the guitar and the drums. I play the guitar and have participated in the percussion section for the West Side Story play we did my Junior year of high school, so we got side tracked for a bit on that, and found out he has played at parties and restaurants.

Music is a universal language, there is no doubt in my mind about this. As we discussed who he thought were some story characters he knew music came around again. He brought up a famous Guatemalan singer, Ricardo Arjona. He said he was aware that Arjona is not a story character from a children’s book, but to him he is one. He went on to tell me that he met him in the street of Guatemala while he walked through El Centro Historico (the historic center) when he was 14 years old. Arjona tells a story in his music, and being a singer he is somewhat a character in those stories. Arjona has a record of presentation, “Luna Park” from Buenos Aires and the record of greater permanence in the Festival de Viña del Mar”. Another way to view a story character…always learning something new!

We moved on to another of my favorite topics: stories. He is into science fiction. A fan of Star Wars and Back to the Future. He tells me: “it connects me to my childhood, a wonderful stage, and that always keeps me attentive in the search for happiness, like a child does.” But, when it comes to how he feels about reading, he likes short stories, especially the ones based on real life. Therefore, He will only read when the story captures him and that will only happen when it is a short and life-based story.He is a photographer and goes for the visual more than anything else so he isn’t into big stories and prefers to see the film over reading. (That I must say does not fly with me all the time; the books tend to be better than the films in capturing what the author was trying to give to the world.)  

He may like to see what things look like from the producer’s point of view, but it is not so for his niece. He named his 15 year old niece a good reader, because she reads a lot, but more importantly has a great imagination and is very creative. 

I can’t argue with him about who a good writer is because I have read his book and I have really liked it; my uncle who has been Peter’s friend since elementary school, has a passion for his stories and has told Peter that “for him (my uncle) a blank page is a goal to be accomplished”. Along with my uncle, Peter is writing a story of his own. He really likes poetry. He practices when he has the inspiration that he usually gathers from experiences of love – both from family and a partner. So, he will set to writing when he is in love, has something important to say, or his “interior asks for it”. 

I mentioned earlier that Peter is a photographer, so when it came to ask him about the use of a computer, it was not doubt that he would say yes. I do photography on the side, and I know how it is to fix a photograph to give it the right amount of contrast to make certain aspects pop. But, he also uses the computer to communicate to others about his work through Facebook and YouTube. 

For more information on his photography skills and interests please visit: http://www.luisberduorivasphotography.org/ .

Literacy does not appear to have changed much throughout the generations. I was able to relate to both of them. Age did not seem to be a boundary. I remember my childhood being as fun as Sophie’s and I can see myself in the future not being so different from Peter. Even between the 5 year old and the 40 year old, music is a central point and reading, even if the consistency and preferences of subject are different, they would be able to discuss the act of reading. Maybe because I am in the middle I can relate more to both, it makes it easier to find common ground, but if we step back we will find that literacy is more powerful than we thinks. It is a great device for showing parts of us to the world. Sophie, Peter and I hold dear expressing our thoughts through one way or another. Music is still holding strong to use to have fun and enjoy one’s self. Through music, writing, photography, and/or dancing we are sharing a piece of us that we may not have thought was in us. So let us continue to pass literacy down generations and allow for journeys back into history or into the future take place. More importantly is to allow the freedom of the imagination a story can bring to someone – no matter the format used to be delivered.