30th Annual Conference on Literacy

Literacy as a Tool for a Caring and Sustainable World: Empowering Interdisciplinary Readers, Writers, and Storytellers

Saturday, April 13, 2024 • Mount Saint Mary College Campus
Presented by the Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning (CELL) at Mount Saint Mary College

View photos from the conference

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  • 8:30-9:00 am: Registration & Continental Breakfast, Hudson Hall
  • 9:00-10:10 am: Workshops I
  • 10:10-10:20 am: Break/Purchase Books
  • 10:20-11:30 am: Workshops II
  • 11:30-11:40 am: Break/Purchase Books
  • 11:40 am-12:45 pm: Featured Speaker/Closing

Pre-Order Book Links

Jen Cullerton Johnson will be available to sign books at the conference. If you would like to pre-order books, here are the links to our local bookseller, Golden Hour Bookstore in Newburgh.


SEEDS OF CHANGE - $19.95 (10% Discount applied at checkout with code) 

THE ENVIRONMENTALIST Wangari Maathai - $9.95


Session 1 Workshops

Grades PreK-5
Dr. Karen Maher, ACSD Kindergarten teacher

Who we are matters. To us, as well as to others. Identity, complex and multifaceted, is (re)constructed through cultural and social interactions. The more our students know about themselves and their classmates, the greater the likelihood they will be respectful and accepting of each other. In this session, participants will explore how primary students built a more caring and just learning community, raising their voices to celebrate the similarities and uniqueness of one another.    

Grades 7-12
Dr. Vikki Terrile, Graduate School of Library & Information Studies, CUNY-Queens

Participants will learn how to use picture books to question, critique, and rewrite the narratives of social justice issues with older students, including pre-service teachers and librarians. Using picture books about homelessness as the model, we will uncover how narratives about causes and solutions maintain notions that homelessness is a personal rather than structural problem. We will also brainstorm other topics and examples that can be used to change stories and encourage compassionate action.

Grades K-8
Rebecca Quackenbush, CUFSD Grade 5 Writing Teacher & HVWP Teacher Consultant

“Make a book." Those three magic words can spark a world of possibilities! Come see how the work of a weeklong youth writing program utilized time, blank space, and the mentor texts of several inspiring authors and illustrators to motivate even the most reluctant writers. Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to experience the book making process and time will be dedicated to examining student work.  Rich conversations about future implications will be discussed.  




Grades K-8
Cecilia Dos Santos, Mount Saint Mary College, Division of Education

Storytelling is a beneficial way for English Language Learners (ELLs) to practice their speaking skills and build their vocabulary. In this workshop, participants will explore how to use this powerful tool to build ELLs’ language skills and cultural awareness.  It is also engaging and fun for all learners!

Grades K-8
Megan Murray, MCSD Library Teacher

Everyday is a holiday! Get students excited to talk to one another, share their experiences, and learn more about the world and people around them. Each day lends itself to a national, global, or silly holiday. Enhance students’ understanding of content-area subject matter and vocabulary with curated discussions, journal prompts, read alouds, and project-based learning. Participants will come away with ideas and resources on how to implement “Holiday of the Day” in their classrooms.

Session 2 Workshops

Grades K-12
Michell Wright Jumpp, NECSD School Librarian & 
Kelly Garcia-Omana, 5th grade teacher, NECSD

Be immersed in a step-by-step process of creating a wonderful world of exploration and discovery of collage, award-winning books, and the value and beauty of celebrating and illuminating one’s community, thereby developing and empowering interdisciplinary readers, writers, and storytellers. Be inspired by creative, diverse, local and national authors, illustrators, techniques, historical people and places. Participants will explore interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and social justice standards and leave with ready-to-go-ideas.

Grades K-5
Meredith Inkeles, WCSD School Librarian

During the Bee Useful session, participants will examine a short interdisciplinary unit on why and what students can do to save pollinators, especially bees. Participants will walk away with a text set of fiction and nonfiction books about the importance of saving bees, how to research the flowers pollinators need for our area, directions on making flower seed bombs, and a flower seed bomb of their own.

Grades PreK-8
Sara Scoggan, Newburgh Free Library Youth Services Librarian

Stories have been shown to increase empathy better than bare facts or statistics. In this session participants will explore how “living books” (especially picture books) can be powerful tools to get children thinking and considering how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes. Participants will leave with lesson ideas and how to guide strong discussions.

Grades PreK-12
Dr. Merle Rumble, Retired Educator & Angelique Robinson, FCSD Paraprofessional

Participants will delve into the often-overlooked contributions of African Americans, whose inventions have significantly influenced our lives. This session will spotlight scientists and inventors whose remarkable achievements are not typically emphasized in mainstream education. Attendees will gain insights into incorporating literature as a powerful tool for educating students about these inventors and their impactful contributions to sustaining our world. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the remarkable lives of these extraordinary men and women.

Grades 7-12
Dr. Joshua Patterson, Mount Saint Mary College, Division of Education

Social studies teachers have long appreciated the importance of studying current events, however, they may not be prepared for the new emphasis on education for sustainability. Issues such as climate injustice, food security, and water equity cannot be adequately addressed in an annual “Earth Day unit” or by relying on a few “green” teachers. In this session, Dr. Patterson will share exemplary methods to stage effective social studies lessons related to sustainability.

PreK-Grade 5
Sarah Armstrong, ACSD Reading Specialist

This workshop will review Culturally Relevant Teaching and Social Emotional Learning and explore the connection between the two. Participants will be guided to explore and implement research-based strategies that put the experiences, history, culture, and voices of their students at the center of their instructional practices, using read alouds and texts to support and facilitate discussion around identity and belonging.

Featured Speaker

Jen Cullerton Johnson is a writer, teacher and environmentalist from Chicago. She has authored multiple award-winning books, essays, and short stories for readers of all ages. Seeds of Change, her biography about Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, won a Coretta Scott King Award. She co-founded Green Literacy, an initiative to create ecological stewards by teaching reading, writing and acting sustainably through educational institutions.

Past Conferences

For over 25 years, the Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning at Mount Saint Mary College has been hosting an annual conference on literacy.

In what ways can we use students’ many languages to support them as learners? What roles do stories (oral and written) play in making meaning? How do we use curriculum to creatively and productively engage young people in making sense of their lived experiences? How do we explore the complexities and nuances of language to help us communicate effectively?

We welcomed educators from all backgrounds and teaching levels to join us in exploring these questions through a selection of workshops and with our featured speakers, Thanhhà Lại and Sunil Singh.

Keynote Speaker: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Keynote Speakers: Jane Gangi and Laconia Therrio

Keynote Speaker: Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

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Keynote Speaker: Pat Mora, author, poet, and literacy advocate

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Keynote Speaker: Susan L. Roth, author and illustrator

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Keynote Speaker: Kathryn L. Roberts, PhD

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Keynote Speaker: Tony Abbott

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Keynote Speakers: Patricia A. Edwards and Bryan Collier

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Keynote Speaker: Joseph Bruchac

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