Start with Joy

Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness

Children come to school to become better readers, writers, and thinkers, but they also walk into classrooms hoping to be happy. Katie Cunningham argues that happiness must be as much of a priority in teaching as proficiency or achievement. When teachers intentionally design curriculum with joy at its heart, learning becomes more meaningful and memorable.

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Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness links what we know from the science of happiness with what we know about effective literacy instruction. By examining characters in the books they read, children develop empathy for others and come to understand that we all struggle and we all love. When given a choice about what to write, children express hopes, fears, and reactions to life’s experiences. Literacy learning is full of opportunities for students to learn tools to live a happy life. 

Inside, you’ll find:

  • Seven Pillars: The author offers seven pillars that will make classrooms more joyful, engaging, and purposeful—Connection, Choice, Challenge, Play, Story, Discovery, and Movement.

  • Ten Invitations: These ten lessons may be presented at any time of year in the context of any unit and include children’s literature suggestions, as well as, recommended teacher talk to meet children’s specific needs.

  • Teaching Tools: Tools and resources that will help students tell their stories and make literacy learning something all students celebrate and cherish.

This book honors the adventure that learning is meant to be. By infusing school days with happiness, teachers can support children as they become stronger readers, writers, and thinkers, while also helping them learn that strength comes from challenge, and joy comes from leading a purposeful life.


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About the Author(s)

Katie Egan Cunningham believes in the power of stories. First as a classroom teacher, and now as a professor and consultant, Katie strives to let her students know their lives are full of stories. She lives with her husband and two sons where hilarious, heartfelt stories happen each day.



Product Details

Grade Range: K-8
Media: 256 pp/paper
Published: 09/2019
Item No: 1283
ISBN: 978-1-62531-283-9
Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers


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Start with Joy

Katie Egan Cunningham