Listening Through Literacy

Janet Pletz' (MEd '08) research reveals the importance of the child's voice in community

Life lessons, language and learning have contributed to U of L alumnus, Janet Pletz’ remarkable relationship with her students and continued research in literacy and innovative curriculum methods in the classroom. “If you give children the permissions and invitations to think deeply about themselves, they have a lot to say,” Pletz explains. “The more teachers work with literature in the classroom, the deeper those conversations become.”

     The challenges and opportunities of language developed early in Pletz’ career. “My post secondary education spans four decades,” she remarks. While at the University of Victoria, Pletz’ experiences working with students in adaptive physical education introduced her to alternative methods of communication. “I realized in order to effectively work with my students, I needed to teach myself sign language.” Upon graduation, Pletz taught sign language with the Victoria School District, and it was there she was surprised to learn she too was hearing impaired.

     After traveling the world for ten years with her husband and children, Pletz returned to Canada, inspired by self-discovery overseas. “I became aware of my developing experiences in world literacies, identity and education in global and cultural contexts,” Pletz says. “Those years overseas stirred a prevailing passion to pursue further education, and the natural choice was to become a teacher.” 

     “My curiosity and questions motivated me to enroll in a Master’s degree at the U of L Faculty of Education,” Pletz says. “The more I sunk my teeth into learning, the more questions I wanted to answer. During my three years at the University of Lethbridge, I explored and delved deeper into literacy education in practice, and my research on young children’s sense of voice with interactions of picture books.” Through those interactions and the support of advisor, Dr. Leah Fowler, Pletz explored the impact of literature on young minds. “By engaging students with picture book literature, I began to understand how children develop a sense of self and voice,” she explains.

     After graduating in 2008, Pletz’s education continues. As a PhD student at University of British Columbia Pletz is further expanding her discoveries in literacy engagement. “If we can give children a gift, it’s recognizing who they are and their importance in their community. Their voices are necessary, and by involving them through literature we are better able to listen to them, and value their experiences.”