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Francis E. Kazemek's Celebrating Language with Adult Literacy Students: Lessons to Engage and Inspire

A Book Review by: Julie Skilton

Celebrating Language with Adult Literacy Students: Lessons to Engage and Inspire is a breath of fresh air for the adult literacy world. This book contains both literacy lessons and resources to accompany and complement the lessons.

Celebrating Language provides adult literacy teachers with tried-and-true methods that Francis Kazemek himself experimented with throughout his years of teaching. His level of expertise and classroom experiences comes shining through his many relevant lessons. Kazemek has seen first hand what worksheets and workbooks can do to adult students as they meaninglessly trod through paper after paper according to where a particular test or program says students should be performing.

Kazemek reinforces the fact that teachers should model, model, model and show themselves as both readers and writers. The ideas expressed here are useful outside of the classroom way beyond the G. E. D.

Kazemek uses a quote from well-known tenor saxophonist John Coltrane and places a twist on it to suit literacy students of all ages. He states, "the true powers of music [literacy] are still unknown. To be able to control them must be, I believe, the goal of every musician [reader/writer]" (p. 89).

Kazemek begins his book with a solid, researched knowledge base that gives relevance to his information in the adult literacy world. Subsequent chapters offer literacy suggestions and lessons through journaling, storytelling, poetry, music, art, fiction, and students' revision of their own works. One of my favorite lessons is recording an oral history through interviewing, recording audio and written information and composing it together. Kazemek suggests the use of StoryCorps (see www.storycorps.net) to help students get started in the process. This lesson makes students aware that all people have stories to tell regardless of their backgrounds.

Another lesson that will engage students uses both commercial and personal photography. One of the greatest things about this lesson is how student oriented it is; students have the options of taking their own pictures and writing a variety of things about them.

These are just some of the many lessons that are relevant, meaningful, exciting and engaging for adult students. The lessons also demonstrate the importance of literacy instruction being linked to students' lives, especially with adult learners.

In conclusion, Kazemek clearly demonstrates that "� the purpose of education at all levels from kindergarten through adulthood is not only to help us become knowledgeable and skilled in particular disciplines but also to help us become more critical, reflective, and empathetic human beings who are able to engage the world from multiple perspectives" (p. 2). This exemplary book demonstrates how teachers can further educate and lead adult students to be such individuals in today's society.

Kazemek, F. E. (2008). Celebrating language with adult literacy students: Lessons to engage and inspire. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

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