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Susan Catapano Revisits Research Site for “More Mirrors in the Classroom”

Saturday, November 05, 2016

More Mirrors in the Classroom, a book recently co-authored by WCE faculty members Susan Catapano and Candace Thompson, with Jane Flemming and Sandy Ruvalcaba Carrillo, raises awareness about the critical role that urban children’s literature can play in helping children learn to read and write. In addition, the book provides practical, step-by-step advice for increasing the cultural relevance of school curricula in order to accelerate literacy learning.

The original concept and research for the book began in St. Louis, MO more than a decade ago when Catapano and Flemming were faculty members at the University of St. Louis Missouri.

Catapano returned to St. Louis in October. She presented her research on the importance of culturally relevant children’s literature to 50 education students enrolled in a UMSL early literacy course, and visited Dewey International Studies Elementary School, where much of the early research for More Mirrors in the Classroom was conducted.

Dewey Elementary is a magnet school in the St. Louis Public School District. Catapano helped create a partnership, St. Louis Teachers Enhancement Partnership (STEP), between Dewey, seven other schools and UMSL in 2004 with funds from a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant. Through the partnership, a Saturday school was launched to provide additional learning experiences for urban school- aged children. The Saturday school was successful in engaging young children through reading, project-based learning and individualized instruction. It was also popular with non-traditional UMSL students who were able to complete field experiences and internships during weekend hours.

During her October visit, Catapano met with Dewey principal Andrew Donovan. Donovan was a UMSL STEP undergraduate intern at Dewey when the Saturday school was launched. After graduation, he taught at the school for six years and served as assistant principal for three before assuming the top administrator role.

Catapano said Dewey is a success story in urban education, and she was pleased to cross paths with Donovan and learn that he is continuing to make a significant impact there. Two other long-term teachers at Dewey were also STEP students. Christal Thurmond (4th grade) and Marla Finely (preschool) are still there 10 years later.

In 2010, Catapano co-authored a journal article about the Saturday school with Jenny Gray, doctoral student and STEP graduate assistant at UMSL, now the librarian at Griffin Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri. The article, “Wishing Every Day Were Saturday” was published in the ASCD publication Educational Leadership in April 2010.

Catapano will return to St. Louis in March with WCE associate dean Carol McNulty and students enrolled in WCE teacher education programs to visit a variety of innovative and urban schools. Students will visit the Nahed Chapman New Immigrant Center, visit with teachers and children in Ferguson, MO, and spend a few days in schools such as Dewey Elementary, New City Multiple Intelligences, Shinning Rivers Waldorf and The College School (project-based), to expand their knowledge of educational opportunities.

Two additional books on urban literacy by the team of Catapano, Thompson, Flemming and Ruvalcaba Carrillo are planned.

More Mirrors in the Classroom: Using Urban Children's Literature to Increase Literacy is available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and KidsLikeUs.org.

Kids Like Us is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the literacy learning of children in city schools. The organization is run entirely by volunteer educators and community members. For more information, visit kidslikeus.org.