Putting Theory to Practice: A Spotlight on Joanne Robertson-Eletto

Associate Professor Dr. Robertson-Eletto Discusses The Life Lessons in Her New Inspiring Children's Book

May 01, 2021
Joanne Robertson-Eletto
Joanne Robertson-Eletto

Dr. Joanne Robertson-Eletto is an outstanding example of the GSE faculty’s commitment to putting theory to practice. As an associate professor in the Master of Science in Teaching Literacy Program (B-12), she recently published the children’s book, The Littlest Coo Discovers His Gifts. It teaches young readers to appreciate people’s differences as a resource and not a deficit, and other important life lessons. The story highlights the strength of family and faith in times of need and shows how support from loved ones enables people to achieve greatness. In a recent interview, Robertson-Eletto discussed her book and the importance of early literacy. Here’s what she had to say:

“Quality literature for children is very important and should highlight themes such as acceptance, bravery, and perseverance. From an early age, it’s vital that children understand they should stand out and it’s okay to not always feel like they fit in. No matter who you are, your shape or abilities, we all have gifts that need to be shared with the world.

The Littlest Coo Discovers his GiftsI quote Rudine Sims Bishop who said, ‘children's literature should be a mirror to see themselves there in that book, a window to see other people, other places, and a sliding door so they can go out into those places and into the world.’ I believe literature is a conversation starter and a way for teachers to build community in the classroom. Formative perceptions are all being developed in early literacy so teachers have a tremendous responsibility to make it a joyful and accepting experience. What a child brings to the text is critical in their comprehension of it so it’s imperative for teachers to help them make connections to the literature.

Reading and writing are critical for children to start understanding basic concepts like letters and words. Introducing young kids, who absorb everything they’re taught like sponges, to literature and pictures opens them up to a whole new world of being, acting, and thinking. Stories that highlight diversity help youngsters develop a sense of empathy for those unlike themselves. It’s important for children to have access to a diversity of books, which are representative of their cultural backgrounds.

I think teachers at all grade levels should be reading aloud to their students. We need to adjust the literacy curriculum throughout our school districts to share books with rich vocabulary, developed story lines, and strong themes to prompt children’s creativity and respect for diversity. Equity and access to quality books have been and will always be a key part of a well-rounded education. 

The Littlest Coo is a springboard for having conversations about making the world a better place.  After reading my book, students can discuss what ‘standing out’ means and how it can enrich their lives. In the story, I emphasize that you’ll be known for what you do to underline the fact that our actions often define who we are. Therefore, we must be mindful of our behavior for it always has a ripple effect. As competent and compassionate educators, we know the importance of differentiating academic instruction to meet the needs of our linguistically, physically, and culturally diverse populations of students. We must also nurture their social and emotional growth, their concepts of inclusivity, and their acceptance of those who are different. Authorship shows children that language has power and how you use it can affect and change things in our world.”