Monday, April 22, 2019

Literacy Around the World -- Featuring Guest blogger, LInda Phillips

Congratulations to Dorothy Price for winning Mine. Yours. on my blog last week. 

Today, I welcome my close friend and writing buddy, Linda Phillips. Many of you know her through SCBWI-Carolinas but others of you have read about her on my blog. Either way, I expect you will enjoy this post about facilitating literacy around the world. Take it away, Linda!

In the past four months, I have traveled 32,365 miles, spanning three continents, four countries, and eleven classrooms.  It cost me zero dollars and only on a few occasions did I incur the slight inconvenience of a predawn or late night "flight." I never had to stand in a line or pass through security, and most of the time, the "connections" were smooth.  Oh, and I had the pleasure of bringing my two books, Crazy and Behind These Hands, into classrooms and talking about them at every stop.  In fact, the books were my ticket, and that's what I'm excited to tell you about.

Two years ago, I signed on to participate in World Read Aloud Day in February, but through my own cyber-ineptness, I dropped the ball and promptly forgot about it.  Last year when I received an email again reminding me about WRAD and Literacy Month, I paid attention and grew excited as I learned:

World Read Aloud Day is just one piece of Literacy Month (February) which is part of Skype in the Classroom, a Microsoft in Education program.

Authors can become a guest speaker by completing a profile. This enables teachers from around the world to invite them to Skype with their students or faculty.  For more information see

Authors can set their own schedule of availability here:

Skype in the Classroom team members will help authors create a Skype Lesson if they send a request to

For a sample lesson, visit my page

By the time I finally connected to this fascinating opportunity through Microsoft in Education, I had missed an offer for free training sessions in January. I muddled through the registration process on my own. After nearly two years, I finally put the whole picture together and had my first Skype in the Classroom experience in Dubai on January 31, 2019.  

I have travelled abroad extensively, but nothing matches this virtual trip to places such as Bahrain, New Delhi, Ontario, Alberta, Albania, as well as stops across America. Each visit has been unique. While I have sometimes encountered poor Skype connectivity and limited English, I most often experienced appreciation that I bothered to "drop in" from so far away. 

One visit to a small, under-developed corner of eastern Europe touched me the most. It was by far the least prosperous looking school that I visited, so much so that I interrupted my spiel to begin asking the teacher questions.  Did they have pleasure books to read?  Was there a library? Were the books she was trying to use to teach English age-appropriate and adequate?  She answered "no" to every question.  I told her I was going to see what I could do about getting some books to her. After we disconnected, the stark image of the tiny, cramped room with a rusty-looking pipe in the corner--most likely the heating system--brought tears to my eyes. 

Here's the serendipitous part. I have a friend who is a missionary in a larger town a couple hours' drive from that tiny school. When I described my Skype visit to him, he put me in touch with another missionary in that same village.  And when I contacted her, she told me she had been this teacher's walking partner for four years! Through further conversations with both missionaries, I learned that the concept of lending libraries doesn't exist in this corner of the world. In addition, the tightly controlled corrupt politics almost guarantees that a box of books would likely be held up for payment in the hundreds of dollars at the post office. 

The idea of a country where children have no access to books is driving me crazy, and I'm not going to let a little political corruption stop me. When I learned that the missionaries will both be in the United States this summer, we came up with a viable plan to load a couple of old suitcases for them to return with.  Now I'm determined to fill those suitcases, and that's where you come in.  If you have new or gently used books, preferably picture and chapbooks, that you would like to donate, please email me and I will figure out a way to obtain them.

Linda is packing her first suitcase!

Obviously, my world-wide journey through Skype in the Classroom has made a difference in my life as a writer, but more importantly, as a citizen of the global community. No one can argue the merits of getting your books around the globe at no cost without leaving your house.  And if you aren't a writer but love books, you already know the joy of sharing them with others.    

Linda Vigen Phillips has a passion for realistic fiction that offers hope and encouragement to young adults and families facing mental or physical health crises.  Her debut book, Crazy, depicts the struggles of a teenage girl in the 1960’s coming to terms with her mother’s bipolar disorder. Like Crazy, Behind These Hands is a Young Adult verse novel. In its starred review Kirkus said, “Free verse evokes the myriad emotions brought up by the story's numerous well-balanced themes. The result is a richly woven, unforgettable symphony of feelings and words.”    


Sandra Warren said...

Linda, what a wonderful adventure you've been on. Thanks for sharing your experiences and the links for other authors to jump on board for a similar adventure.

I will contact you via email about sending one or two of my books for that tiny school. What a wonderful way to impact children beyond your books.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sandra. Some of your books for young readers would be perfect!

Theresa Milstein said...

The whole thing sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yep, Linda inspires me all the time!

Diane B said...

Would love to help you by donating books to this village. Will email you.

--Diane Buie

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Diane. Linda will be happy to hear from you.

sheri levy said...

Hi Linda, I have a number of picture books and young readers. I will email you and get your address. What a wonderful discovery and all of us can help!

Rosi said...

Wonderful adventure. Thanks for the post.

Vijaya said...

Linda, I'm a reluctant user of any and all technology until I'm forced to use you have my admiration for doing these international Skype visits. Books used to be cheap to mail overseas when they were shipped but not anymore. It's gotten prohibitively expensive. What serendipity that the missionary you contacted knew the teacher!!! I hope the airlines don't charge an arm and a leg for these donations.

Linda, I'll bet if you asked the Highlights foundation or anybody who has a subscription to save old copies of the magazines to donate that they would happily comply. I used to save all our old copies and give them to poor schools. Many Catholic schools are poor (serving the poor) and they enjoy having these magazines in the classroom.

Carol Baldwin said...

Great idea, Vijaya. I’ll make sure Linda sees it! Thanks.

Linda Phillips said...

Thanks Sandra, Theresa, Diane, and Vijaya for your encouraging and helpful comments. Vijaya, I loved your ideas about Highlights magazines, too! Will look into it for sure.

THE NIGHT WAR: A MG Historical Novel Review

  By now you should have received an email from my new website about my review of THE NIGHT WAR by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. (It'll com...