Penny Kittle: Teachers Have The Gifts To Make A Difference

Educators must be curious, engaged and critical thinkers

On June 2, 2021 Penny Kittle returned to the MCIU for the virtual workshop, “Planning and Implementing Book Clubs with Culturally Responsive Texts”. Educators from across the region joined via Zoom to hear Penny share her teaching and learning big ideas. Two big ideas asserted from the author and educator included: 

  • Adolescent engagement depends on making choices and the power of social interactions. 
  • Adolescent engagement is sustained through the power of social interactions outside of our classrooms.


How can you know what one life might do for another?

Kim Stafford

“Curse of the Charmed Life” from Singer Come From Afar

Educators deepened their understanding of why book clubs leverage engagement and deeper learning, the essential roles discourse and writing play in book clubs, and the teacher moves and design elements of book clubs. Penny painted the big picture we should have for all readers– increase joy, interest and volume, increase complexity, develop an allegiance to authors and genres, and expand an understanding of race, class and the world. “Book Clubs can help us move kids out of their lanes,” said Kittle.  Her claim supports the windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors metaphor asserted by Rudine Sims Bishop and makes space for imagination and self- examination for readers. Colonial School District Librarian and Instructional Coach Brooke Carpenter shared her learning from the workshop, “I love the idea of building reading relationships with students so we can find what engages them and then capitalize on it. Helping readers (and those who consider themselves non-readers) find something they enjoy and using it to build their reading skills and broaden their understanding of the world is an important goal for educators”. Carpenter said she is currently working with teachers to revamp book club units of study that honor student voice and choice and meet academic goals.

Kittle pointed out that discourse and writing opportunities in our learning communities are equally important to the reading instruction we plan for our students. We need not look farther than our own students to know how to be responsive and relevant. Take it from two student writers and contributors from Young Black Poets, Alora Young and Madison Petaway, who both say that they found inspiration from what they read and found their voice from what they wrote. There is genius waiting within the students and communities we serve and teachers must answer the call to create the learning conditions that allow our students to create and explore. We can honor the experiences that our students had (during the pandemic) and create opportunities for students to share those experiences with us, each other and our communities. As a designer and facilitator of learning, teachers know that building the capacities of students to stay curious, engaged, and be critical thinkers beyond our courses and classrooms is at the heart of teaching and learning. Implementing book clubs is one approach to deliver and cultivate social learning opportunities.

I take a lot of inspiration from history. Science inspires me a lot as well. I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” a couple of days ago and that has inspired me a lot because wow, brilliant man. During the summer, I read Plato’s “The Republic” and that gave me some really great inspiration. I read a lot of books this summer, so I wrote a lot of poetry. As a matter of fact, I wrote an entire book of poetry this summer. And then I finished my musical. And then I finished my novel at the very beginning of quarantine.

Alora Young

High School Senior, Nashville’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate

NYT Young Black Poets Link

How can we re-engage students with independent reading to build a collaborative community of learners?

Penny Kittle

Penny Kittle will continue to support our educators this summer on their journey to reimagine teaching and learning.  Join us on August 25th for another virtual workshop with Penny Kittle when she will focus on launching the school year with independent reading. The workshop goals include supporting students in gaining back their stamina, fluency, and joy of reading and writing.  Registration is open!  You can also explore the OPL Literacy Playlist: Time, Choice, and Access to Read (and Write) available here, which is a collection of resources that center around independent reading. 

Flexible Summer 2021 Learning Opportunities

Looking for something to dip into this summer on your own timeline?  

Summer Book Club

Join a summer book club with Penny Kittle including live discussions with authors and educators!  Never joined a book club before?  That’s okay, these books celebrate the power of words and connect you with other humans who want to learn and grow together.

Books are something social—a writer speaking to a reader—so I think making the reading of a book the center of a social event, the meeting of a book club, is a brilliant idea.

Yann Martel

On Your Own Timeline


30+ Conversations on Teaching and Learning

Listen to 30+ Conversations on Teaching and Learning with Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle and friends. This series explores ideas that have emerged from the challenges and changes since the start of the pandemic.  It includes a Padlet with resources and recorded conversations. It’s the kind of conversations that are accessible to everyone and keep you coming back for more!


Not sure where to start? Try Day 30

Day 30 Big Ideas

  • How are you continually growing and thinking as a learner and how do you dip back into what you are learning about your craft?
  • What is the tension between reflecting on the teaching year you had and the teaching year you hope to have next year?
  • What are the implications of weaponizing the learning loss narrative?

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Carey Rhodes is a Project Consultant in the Office of Professional Learning at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. As a Project Consultant, she works in the areas of literacy and instructional coaching. Carey provides learning opportunities, technical support, and coaching that are interactive, reflective, and strategy-driven to guide participants from theory to classroom practice.

Prior to her serving as a Project Consultant, Carey was an instructional coach, literacy specialist, and secondary classroom teacher. Utilizing her background as an instructional coach and literacy educator, she encourages participants to learn and grow together by reflection in, on, and about instructional practice. Carey believes educators are stewards of learning and need to model for their students that learning never ends. She encourages a mindset of collaborative exploration and challenge. Carey is supportive of sharing our learning journeys in order to build our capacity, construct and clarify our understandings, and shift the teaching and learning experience. She thinks a learning environment that is anchored in an intentional instructional design supports transferable learning and student achievement.

Carey has a Bachelors in Educations from The University of Scranton and a Masters of Education from Cabrini University. She holds Pennsylvania Certifications in English 7-12 and Reading Specialist K-12.