Common read helps Elizabethtown College education students transition into major
December 13, 2016   //   By:   //   Achievements, Features

Aged book on wooden table

A common read—a non-textbook read by a class at the same time—helps Elizabethtown College first-year education students transition into their chosen major; common reads also help graduating education students face issues they’re about to encounter in the classroom.

The books’ subject matter relates to situations students will likely encounter as educators—poverty, refugees, immigration, multicultural interaction. Social justice, along with professionalism, undergraduate research and theory-into-practice are the program’s four foundational pillars.

“It helps us discuss other viewpoints,” said Delaney McCracken, a first-year early education student. Diversity, she said, is a big talking point right now.

This semester, McCracken and her contemporaries read “Made in America: Immigrant Students in Our Public Schools,” she said. The book is described by Amazon as a portrayal of America as it “reexamines its borders and immigration policies … the debate over educating immigrant students in our public schools” and how these topics have divided America.

The common read helps first-year students come together into a shared identity, said Rachel Finley-Bowman, chair of the Education Department. “They begin to talk a certain way, in a language they will be using as educators.”

Common reads also help education majors understand the diverse classrooms they’ll be facing. “A student might come into a classroom from a background that is more challenging,” said Finley-Bowman of the children E-town education majors might encounter. “Maybe a student is not paying attention because he is hungry.”

Shared reading, she said, is a chance to consider other scenerios and open avenues for discussion.

Four years into their future, Finley-Bowman said, “it’s rubber-meets-the-road time.” The seniors experience another common read just as they are entering the classroom. “It gives them a chance to see what’s actually happening, putting theory into practice,” she said. No longer are they just thinking of teaching in esoteric or ambiguous ways.

Common reads, she said, are kept broad enough so they touch secondary biology educators or music ed major.

The reading, said Finley-Bowman, not only aligns with the foundational pillars in the program, it prepares students for the 21st-century classroom.

Ramon Rios, a senior social studies-secondary education major, recalls his first-year common read about John Wood,  who started his own nonprofit to build libraries in poor areas around the world. The book, “Room to Read” talked about using a substainable model and focusing on the power of education to change lives.

Presently, Rios student teaches eleventh grade U.S. history and senior civics and economics at Manheim Townhip High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “The school is just starting to become diverse, especially in my curriculum,” he said. Discussions about diversity help him prepare his students for moving from a primarily white population into being immersed in the diversity of a big university.

About the Author :

E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey is the communications manager and news editor at Elizabethtown College. She has worked in the Office of Marketing and Communications since 2008, after more than two decades as a newspaper feature writer. She holds a bachelor's degree in corporate communication from Elizabethtown College.