Q. What do you get when you bring 150 educators, librarians, and principals together for a day jam-packed with literacy?

A. Inspiration, excitement for learning, and a whole lot of creative ideas!

Yesterday, elementary educators from all over New Hampshire and Vermont joined us at the scenic Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, VT for our 7th annual Community Literacy Conference. This year’s theme was “Discovering the Stories Around Us,” and workshops and breakout sessions focused on finding and sharing stories through artifacts and STEAM. The conference is FREE for representatives from past, current, or next year’s Year of the Book schools.

The CLiF Year of the Book is the $25,000 literacy grant program we award to VT and NH elementary schools with a demonstrated commitment to improving literacy in their communities, high percentages of low-income kids, and high percentages of students underperforming in reading and writing assessments.  This year, we again selected 5 schools in VT and 5 in NH to receive the Year of the Book. The program brings many of CLiF’s talented presenters to these schools for interactive storytelling presentations and writing workshops, family literacy celebrations, special literacy-themed events, programs connecting literacy to other aspects of their curricula, new books for classrooms and the school library, new children’s books for the local public library, and TEN new books for each child to choose! The program creates a community-wide culture of literacy, infusing the community with books and celebrating reading and writing.

Below, see what representatives from a few past and current Year of the Book schools have to say about how the program has impacted their communities and enabled them to offer their students lots of exciting programming.


Matt Gile of JFK Elementary School in Winooski, VT (a current Year of the Book school) talks about some of the authors and storytellers who have visited their school, including poet Rajnii Eddins, who “blew their minds” with his improv and spoken word poetry, and author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, who brought her Storykeepers program to inspire students to learn about and share their family histories. JFK’s ELL program used one of the mini-grants provided by the Year of the Book to visit to the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte, VT to learn about African American history and culinary traditions.




Kim Abdoo and Teresa Bolton from Canaan Schools talk about the opportunities the Year of the Book gave their school, including visits from author Marty Kelley, Siskin Ecological Services, and a schoolwide sleepover!

The conference is an opportunity for educators to network, learn, and share ideas for creative ways to incorporate literacy into their schools. Here were a few of our favorite ideas:

  • Forensic scavenger hunt: Have kids solve a mystery through hidden clues and interviewing “suspects.” (Matt from Winooski admitted he was the villain who stole the missing vase. Fortunately, his students solved the mystery!)
  • Karaoke! Janelle from the Ludlow Afterschool Program found a cheap karaoke machine from a thrift store and uses the lyrics to practice reading and repetition while having fun singing songs.
  • Paint Chip Poetry: Use paint chip samples to inspire original poems. Begin by writing a list of all the words the color(s) makes you think of, then come up with adjectives for those words, and put them together into a poem.
  • Poem in Your Pocket: Have printed poems available for kids to read and carry with them throughout the day (Great for Poetry Month, which is almost here, or anytime of the year!).
  • Black-out Poetry – Take old books or magazines and use Sharpies to black out words, leaving only the words you want to use for your poem.
  • Book Tasting: Set places as if for a meal with a book at each setting (you may choose to have a genre at each table). Give students a few minutes to sample each book, jot down notes, then move on to the next table.
  • Book Review Challenge: One teacher shared that her students entered a raffle for every book they reviewed and reported that they received more than 400 reviews!

You can find more programming ideas for fun ways to incorporate literacy on CLiF’s website.

At the conference, participants started the day with a hands-on songwriting workshop with CLiF presenter Jon Gailmor. Jon shared ways he gets kids to learn about songs, words, and writing through his school visits. Together, we created a CLiF song about literacy. Check it out below – and just try to get it out of your head!

Author/CLiF presenter Natalie Kinsey-Warnock shared artifacts that told some of her incredible family stories and talked about ways she encourages kids to research and learn about their own family histories through her popular Storykeepers program. Read more about Natalie in our recent Q & A with her. Many of the conference participants were inspired by her presentation and are excited to invite her to their schools!

Participants also learned about ways to incorporate STEM/STEAM through stories from Mirka Zapletal of the McAulliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH and learned about making connections in art through observation from the Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, NH.


Everyone attending also received books to use in their classrooms or libraries and had the opportunity to purchase – or win – beautiful new books from Usborne Books (with 50% of the proceeds supporting CLiF programs, like Year of the Book!). We also held a raffle where educators voted on their favorite of a selection of diverse children’s books and had the opportunity to win one of the books.

Here are the top results:

1. Malala‘s Magic Pencil
3. Hidden Figures (the picture book)
Representatives from next year’s Year of the Book schools received their initial training about the program and are excited to get going. We’ll be visiting each of these schools this spring for more training on how to make the most of this opportunity to celebrate reading and writing all year long. Educators from these schools said, “We can’t wait to get started with the grant” and called the conference a “Great kick off to get motivated.”
Conference participants said about the day:

“It gave me a lot of great literacy ideas, especially about poetry.”

“Excellent ideas, networking, inspiration. Helps me return to school with renewed enthusiasm for teaching and integrating literacy.”

“Communicating lively, engaging ways to bring literacy to children in non-traditional ways.”

“What a wonderful gift!”

“This is always a highlight of my professional year!” 

Thank you to all who participated and made this conference possible. We always enjoy the opportunity to (re)connect with educators across NH and VT and share exiting ways to help spread the joy of literacy! And thank you to ALL who make this work happen!

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