Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 5 1994 A literacy connection It's a contagious situation. If the teacher gets excited about a new reading format, then the kids get excited, too." Susan Bunting, supervisor for elementary instruction in the Indian River School District, Sussex County, Del., is speaking about a new approach to teaching reading and writing in her district, a change that is a direct outgrowth of the Literacy Connections program sponsored by the University's College of Education. Under the Literacy Connections program, school district representatives attend a summer training institute on teaching reading and writing and then design a plan to support literacy teaching in their home districts. The next school year, each trained leader holds development seminars for other teachers in the district, helping them implement the new approach in their classrooms. According to Carol Vukelich and Mary Roe, directors of the office of inservice education at the University, two school districts in New Castle County, Del., also are participating in the program. "Since the new, statewide assessment tests are more performance-based, teachers are thinking more about how best to teach reading and writing," Vukelich says. Bunting, who attended the summer institute in Dover, Del., chose one person from each school in her district last year for after-school training sessions. "At the elementary level, we chose the reading specialists, but we also included teachers from the middle schools and high schools. Now, the second layer of training is occurring and we are having inservice sessions led by the people I trained," she says. Typically, reading programs have used a basal textbook with grade levels for the elementary curriculum, Bunting says, and workbooks are linked to the textbook. In the new approach, teachers can use trade books or paperbacks and children choose what they want to read, whether it be novels, biographies or history books. Teachers monitor these self-selections for variety. "On a typical day, the teacher might give a brief skill lesson first-5 or 10 minutes on something like character analysis or punctuation-followed by a day of student reading and writing. Then, there is a short, sharing session at the end of the day," Bunting says. The workshop approach to reading and writing in conjunction with student portfolios probably will be used along with some older teaching methods, Bunting says, but she does not expect a continued reliance on a basal textbook. "We exposed the district's language arts committee last year to the state of the art in reading and writing instruction, and we already have teachers trying these new things and saying their students are more enthusiastic." In addition to each participating district's professional development sessions, Literacy Connections' participants receive monthly newsletters describing quality teaching of reading and writing in Delaware schools and providing a forum for publishing outstanding student writing. A yearly conference will allow teachers from across the state to share concerns and successes.