Little Jackson is a veteran in the field of arts-based education and this year we are celebrating his 30th year as a Reading In Motion Coach. Not only does he bring decades of experience to the schools we serve, but he brings a passion that arises from a lifetime of helping others find their truth and discover their talents. Prior to joining Reading In Motion, Little helped struggling youth rap about their lives as a way to process their emotions and experiences. Together, Little and the students turned these rap sessions into plays. Little brought this experience to Reading In Motion’s (then called Whirlwind) All-Stars Program in 1989 to teach Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students to express themselves through music, dance, and drama. Nowadays, his work focuses on helping teachers and students develop and recognize their own abilities through arts-based learning in the classroom. We asked Little a few questions about his work and his perspective on learning.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Getting the chance to have quiet coaching time with teachers. During that time, I’m able to pour out my heart and mind to teachers, sharing with them how to educate and engage a student in understanding that learning is absolutely fun. Children learn by having fun and exploring. You could turn that around too –– children have fun by exploring through learning. I model what I’ve talked about to teachers and they see that I’m able to get the kids to do things they’ve been trying to get done.
Can you share a memorable moment you’ve had with a teacher?
During a Reading In Motion Summer Institute [where teachers are trained to implement the program], a teacher once asked why we were putting all this time into summer training. It was just one more new thing on her list of administrative tasks. She was really against having this new thing in the classroom. Later, a few weeks after the school year started, I went to visit her and she said to me: “This works! I’m telling everyone about this!” Now, years later, she is a real spokesperson for the program. Reading In Motion was at her school for years because every year she said, “If we lose Reading In Motion, I may have to leave this school.”
What can parents with struggling readers do to help?
Purchase a box of letter cards and sight word cards [high frequency words, like the, that can’t be sounded out] and spend 10-15 minutes every day, five days a week, just going through letter names and sounds. More than 15 minutes is too much, so just 15 minutes a day. That would help the child and their teacher a great deal if a parent did this.
Do you have a book you’d recommend for K-first grade readers?
I just read and absolutely loved The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch.