NCTE: Literacy Support and Community

Prior to becoming a K-5 school librarian, I taught in the elementary classroom for over twenty years. Throughout this time, I sought to improve my craft both as a teacher and a writer. To accomplish this goal, I engaged in every professional development opportunity that came my way. From books on Writer’s Workshop to local and state conferences on language arts, I learned all I could about literacy instruction. I joined the National Council of Teachers of English, and there, connected with many professionals also dedicated to literacy. As I began to regularly attend NCTE’s national conventions, I knew I’d found a place where I could grow and learn with other readers and writers. This discovery was a pivotal one in my career in education.

Once I became a librarian, I remained a member of NCTE. (By this time I’d already joined ALA and ALSC where I found many meaningful connections and valuable resources that helped me grow in my new field.)

And even though I was no longer a classroom teacher, I knew the benefits of NCTE membership would serve me well in the elementary library. Indeed, I have had the privilege of helping many students in the library with writing strategies and rough drafts as well as book choices!

From their website, I learned that the organization was founded in 1911 and is dedicated to “ improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education”. With over 35,000 members from the U.S. and around the world, and more than 100 affiliates across the country (NCTE, n.d.), NCTE is comprised of four sections: elementary, middle, secondary, and college and provides resources and support for each level. Members have access to lesson plans, and policy briefs, as well as online communities. Along with the International Reading Association and the Verizon Foundation, NCTE sponsors the learning site Read Write Think which offers language arts lessons plans, interactives and videos for teachers in K-12.

Each November, NCTE holds its annual convention, where workshops are held on topics ranging from digital literacy to using nonfiction in the classroom. NCTE’s most recent convention was centered on the theme “Story As the Landscape of Knowing”.

Image courtesy of the author
Image courtesy of the author

NCTE also sponsors the annual National African American Read-In held each February in celebration of Black History Month. (This year marks the 25th anniversary of this event.) In recognition of quality literature, NCTE administers several awards programs including the Orbis Pictus Award for Nonfiction, the Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts, the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, and the newly established NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children.

My experiences at NCTE conventions help me to reflect upon the role of school libraries in shaping literacy in their communities. I have had many conversations with fellow educators about their own experiences with books in their classrooms as well. This dialogue – and these networks – feed my work in the library in so many significant ways.

To find out more about the National Council of Teachers of English visit their website at www.ncte.org.


NCTE Home Page. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2015, from http://www.ncte.org

Cynthia Alaniz is a school librarian at Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Coppell, Texas. She is a member of the ALSC Liaison with National Organizations Committee and was honored to be a 2014 Morris Seminar participant. She has also presented at two NCTE Annual Conventions.



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