Young students share self-written, illustrated books at Mount lit program

December 09, 2016

Proud elementary and middle school students read their self-published and illustrated books to their families on December 7 at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. The young students were tutored by Mount Saint Mary College teacher candidates. The sessions, which served as a practicum course for the Mount students, was overseen by professors Janine Bixler and Rebecca Norman.


Nearly two dozen local children shared self-written stories about the national parks of the U.S. at a Mount Saint Mary College literacy program on December 7.

Under the tutelage of 23 Mount teacher candidates, the children – from kindergarteners to sixth graders – spent the semester writing and illustrating their books at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center before presenting excerpts to their friends and families. There was a 1:1 student-teacher ratio, allowing for in-depth, personalized learning opportunities for each child.

For the children, the sessions afforded them one-on-one tutoring and increased their literacy skills in a fun and engaging way. For the Mount teacher candidates, the graduate level course was a hands-on experience in real-world teaching.

The Mount course was taught by Janine Bixler, professor and chair of the Mount’s Division of Education, and Rebecca Norman, associate professor of education.

Over the course of the program, the Mount teacher candidates utilized the Picturing Writing technique. According to Bixler and Norman, by painting a picture of their subject first, students can more easily express themselves through writing.

The Picturing Writing sessions at the Armory are part of the Mount’s Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning (CELL). Established in 2012, CELL provides tutoring and out-of-school literacy activities for children pre-school to grade 12 with a focus on reading, conversation, and activities. It explores multicultural books, offers family literacy programs, and more. Each semester about 60 Mount teacher candidates, graduate and undergraduate, help instill a love of reading in local youth as part of their community fieldwork requirement.

In addition to Bixler and Norman, CELL is made possible by Mount professors Jane Gangi, David Gallagher, and many more college volunteers.

Mount literacy programs are held in the Newburgh Armory on Saturday mornings, weekday mornings in the summertime, and weekday afternoons during the fall and spring semesters. Other events, such as Family Literacy Night, are held throughout the year.

“By improving their literacy, we’re giving these young students life skills, not just school skills,” said Bixler.