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Car Keys

Think back to the first time you held car keys in your hand. Even when you weren’t old enough to drive, there was just something powerful about 
holding the keys that could take you anywhere you  wanted to go—as long as there was gas in the tank.


My friend Dodie’s son Robert just turned 15. Dodie now has a driver with a beginner permit and the anxiety to go with it. Robert has already accomplished driving around the school parking lot and getting used to the feel of the brakes and steering. Under his mom’s guidance, he will eventually venture farther, starting with neighborhood streets and gearing up for traffic lights, drive-through windows, construction zones, and highways.
As parents, our goal is to build in as much supervised practice time as possible. We want the experience behind the wheel to become second nature as our young drivers learn not only to expertly operate the vehicle, but, more importantly, to be safe in any situation. That means making smart decisions about the route to travel, choosing who will come along for the ride, and keeping the cell phone out of sight while the car is moving.
The journey to get a driver’s license and all the perks that go with it is a little like mastering the skills of reading and writing. And the perks of being literate are even more amazing than owning a sports car.
How do you stay informed and firm up your own opinion rather than being influenced by the latest social media post? How do you know a forwarded e-mail is true? How do you research to find facts rather than just voting the way someone else tells you to? These are the times students apply literacy strategies they’ve practiced in class.
Understanding Others and Being Understood
How do you help someone understand your point of view or convince them to take action? How do you put together a polished paragraph to accompany a job application or a report for an employer? Words can be persuasive and one of the most powerful ways to influence others.
Getting Where You Want to Go
Literacy is the doorway to so many opportunities. Academic success is an amazing foundation, but the next building blocks are the ability to be well informed and have a robust conversation around the restaurant table when out with friends and family.  
Over time we become more confident drivers and learn how to navigate to new places and enjoy new experiences. Driving becomes a seamless part of our life. We also hope that students become more confident in their literacy as they progress through school and beyond, taking advantage of opportunities available to them.
Literacy is ingrained into every part of our lives, and the science classroom is one of the best places to hone those skills. We may never see students study for a science test with quite the same enthusiasm as they study for their driving test, but tucking a few more tools into the set of skills students take with them beyond school is just as valuable as tucking a driver’s license into their wallets.
Want some concrete examples of how to address reading and writing in the science classroom?  Check out Gateways to Science Companion Guide: Literacy Strategies at

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