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BoB Research Team Presents at Washington College Literacy Symposium

By Sara Clarke-De Reza

On Friday, October 7th, the Busload of Books Research Team gave its first public presentation at the “Literacy and Transformative Learning Experiences in Local and Global Contexts” symposium at Washington College. This symposium was a part of a weekend of programming to celebrate the inauguration of the college’s 31st President, Dr. Michael Sosulski. This day-long event featured speakers from the Washington College community whose research and teaching practice illustrated the ways in which learning with and about language has the potential to fundamentally change people’s educational experiences for the better.

Nick, Sara, and Avery represented the Busload of Books team in their presentation entitled “A Busload of Books: Exploring the Impacts of Literacy Enrichment Experiences on Underserved School Communities.” Our presentation included an introduction to the tour, a discussion of the sociocultural and spatial inequalities theories underlying the research, and a description of the complex research methodology. Most excitingly, however, we were able to share some preliminary data from the tour’s earliest school participants. Though our school sample was too small to draw strong, significant conclusions, we showed some interesting patterns in literacy attitudes and beliefs that seem to vary by student age.

After we completed our presentations, we participated in a question-and-answer session with the session chair Dr. Pat Nugent, the Washington College Director of Civic Engagement. Dr. Nugent’s first question sparked a great conversation about the role of research in student experience at Washington College: “Considering the connections between place and language in the research on this panel, how does language help you work with students to imagine the place of our campus in the world?” Student researcher and symposium panelist Avery Castellani provided a compelling insight into her own experience:

“I take the language and literacy attitude research we’re doing on campus to my student teaching placement every week. Even if the 1st graders I’m working with aren’t being surveyed like the students Robbi and Matthew are visiting, they still have unique thoughts and opinions surrounding reading, writing, drawing, and more that I keep in the back of my mind while working with them. Doing so helps me understand them more, which helps me in my teaching.”

As faculty, Avery’s response is exactly what we hope to hear from our student collaborators. This theory-to-practice connection also resonated beautifully with the symposium’s overall thesis that consideration of the deep impacts of literacy and language on the daily lives of people can itself be a transformative learning experience.

Questions from the symposium audience showed the same excitement, curiosity, and scholarly appreciation that our research team has received each time we’ve talked to people about our work. The Busload of Books research team wants to extend a thanks to Washington College’s Inauguration Committee for celebrating Dr. Sosulski with an academic presentation, and for inviting our project to be a part of it. We’re looking forward to many more opportunities to share our (quickly) growing data in the coming years!



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