A Response to the Tragedy of Sandy Hook

International Reading Association


Some things are beyond words, an unusual predicament for a literacy community like ours to have to acknowledge. But the awful events that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last week mostly leave us numb and speechless. It is difficult to comprehend that this happened, let alone absorb the immensity of the loss.

Our first thoughts, of course, turn to the families of the victims. May there be consolation and loving support strong enough to see them through this time of utter agony. We wish for them a resilience of spirit and hope, and the healing that can only come with time.

It turns out that the tragedy of Sandy Hook touched our professional family as well. Dawn Hochsprung, the principal at the Sandy Hook School who lost her life trying to protect her students, was a member of the International Reading Association. The courage and love shown in her act of protecting those in her care will be forever remembered.

The scars of that day—physical and emotional—will burden the surviving children and school staff well into the future. Dealing with the trauma and moving on will require patient effort and continuous assistance from friends, counselors, and colleagues.  Helping the children face this tragedy and return to the normal rhythms of school and learning will not be easy.

Resources that may be helpful to other teachers around the nation in addressing their students about this incident can be found at the following links:

http://classroombookshelf.blogspot.com/2012/12/childrens-books-on-grief-and-loss.html

http://fci.org/new-site/par-tragic-events.html

So much will need to be sorted out in the aftermath of this catastrophe. President Obama, speaking at the memorial service, put the question succinctly: Is this the best we can do? His challenge was rhetorical, for the answer is surely no. In the days ahead our leaders will need to grapple with all of the entwined issues to produce a legal framework that will enhance our protection against this type of threat.

As educators, let us seize upon this moment to rededicate ourselves to the great humanizing mission of literacy instruction. May our work serve to increase understanding, respect, health, and good will among the students entrusted to our care, and may our society be the better for it.

Wishing peace to all in the New Year,

Carrice Cummins, President
Marcie Craig Post, Executive Director

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