Norma Nelson: “Reading is a Social Justice Issue”
Norma Nelson has worked in education on one street – West Dallas’ Singleton Boulevard – for the last 14 years! For 8 years, she worked as a teacher and Assistant Principal and saw the challenges of a school with high turnover and a need for more funding and leadership.
She then realized she had a passion for working on systems-level changes to figure out and address root causes of these issues and inequalities. Through the vision of Ted Schweinfurth, Readers 2 Leaders was founded and Norma became its first Executive Director. But, she says, “I had to teach first…to figure out what makes a good teacher and a good classroom.”
At Readers 2 Leaders, Norma and her team believe that “reading is a social justice issue. The ability to read gives children agency in their lives to go to college or trade school. It gives them knowledge and power to make their own decisions. It helps them do well in school and lead a life where they get to be leaders in their community. Through literacy we can achieve this.”
“Two-thirds of our 3rd graders in Dallas County are behind in reading, and they need our support to get caught up.” Readers 2 Leaders provides tutoring in school, after school, and during summer and is the only out-of-school time program focused solely on literacy. In 2017-18, R2L will provide tutoring to 460 children.
Readers 2 Leaders has an instructional coach who trains both their teachers and their volunteers. While many after school programs focus on providing a safe space after school, R2L is committed to helping children reach grade-level reading skills and has the achieved the highest quality standard certification from Dallas Afterschool’s Program Quality Initiative.
We asked Norma what tips she could give to get a child excited about reading. She says:
- Find books about things your kids are interested in, for example animals, cars, or sports.
- Read in the home language. Literacy is literacy no matter what language!
- Talk to your kid’s teacher or the program team at R2L so we can help get books in your kid’s hands that will be engaging and fun.
Norma is a proud alum of the University of Notre Dame and is also in the Leadership ISD Class of 2018.
Read more about our heroes that work on issues related to Quality Education.