Literature, Literacy, and Civic Engagement: Connecting the Community and the Academy
"IRSC and Literature Professor Jonathan Glover's commitment to helping our kindergarteners read on grade level is groundbreaking. The extra tutoring time is improving their performance!"
-- Highlands Elementary School Principal, Diane Fanin
Dr. Jonathan Glover, English Professor,
Indian River State College
As a professor of English at Indian River State College, I strive to teach the importance of effective written and spoken communication to my students at the Mueller Campus in Vero Beach. Critical thinking and writing serve a profound purpose within a democratic republic such as our own, because -- to put it briefly -- a democratic citizenry can only be truly engaged if it can understand and interpret the complex messages that permeate modern society. By emphasizing these issues, my composition and literature classes demonstrate the ways in which academic concerns link to community issues.
This past August, my American literature (AML2010) students benefitted from the addition of a practical, experiential component to the course: a hands-on project that directly connects their academic analysis of American literature to our local community. Titled "Literature, Literacy, and Civic Engagement: An Academic Service Learning Project for American Literature," this project has been made possible through partnership with The Learning Alliance.
IRSC Students Preparing for the Project
To complete this service learning project, my students became literacy tutors for kindergarten students at Highlands Elementary School. Utilizing the "Fundations" method, each IRSC literacy tutor was assigned to his or her own classroom and would report once a week to help struggling students work through the most basic and fundamental stages of literacy. In turn, my students participated in something larger than themselves: The "Moonshot Moment" goal of achieving "90% Literacy by Third Grade" in Indian River County. Many of my students enjoyed the program so much that they are now enrolled in the next section of American literature (AML2020), eagerly diving right back in to our ongoing collaboration with The Learning Alliance.
As many of my students have noted, literacy helps us engage with the major issues of our time. Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became an influential abolitionist and author after learning to read and write, is a powerful example, as he used his public speeches and memoirs to hone his powerful condemnations of slavery. But above all else, my students have learned not to take literacy for granted: Don't we all deserve the opportunity to engage through reading and writing with the various social issues of our day and age?
Just as I strive to learn from my own students, my students had learned from their tutees at Highlands. I look forward to the moment, ten to twelve years from now, when these current Highlands students will begin to appear in my college classes, all grown up and better prepared for college thanks to the efforts of
The Learning Alliance and the literacy tutors from my American literature classes.
-Dr. Jonathan Glover, English Professor, Indian River State College