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“Don is a wonderful storyteller, and his honest essays about himself and his family, their escape from the Vietnam days before Saigon fell, his life as an immigrant child, and his experiences and memories of reading illustrate the lasting influence of families, teachers, and books. Don is also an inclusive and responsive school leader, and credits school staff and families with driving change at the school. He stresses that any shift or initiative in a school’s culture driven solely by its leaders is unsustainable…Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness is rich in practical strategies, thought-provoking conversation topics, student and teacher voices, and inspiration. It is possible for all children to experience reading joy and succeed on short-term measures of success like standardized tests, but Barrett Ranch and schools like it show that when we focus on engaging and supporting readers and their families, children succeed and retain an appreciation for reading. Don Vu and the Barrett Ranch community have given us a gift—a glimpse into the messy but gratifying process of reimagining what reading looks like in our schools.”– DONALYN MILLERaward-winning teacher, staff development leader, and author of The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild, and Game Changer!: Book Access for All Kids

Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness is one of the most important books for educators today. Don Vu helps us reimagine what is possible when we create a culture of literacy and commit to student choice, agency, and independent reading. He weaves in personal story throughout, which helps illuminate the challenges and triumphs of the immigrant and refugee experience. The stories and strategies Vu shares, as well as the trade books he recommends, will help educators at all levels create the best environments possible for our immigrant and refugee children to thrive as readers, writers, and learners.”— FRANKI SIBBERSON, 2020 President, National Council of Teachers of English; Teacher, Librarian, Author

“I love this book with all my heart. Don’s expertise and personal journey make Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness an instant standout in the world of literacy leadership. With poignant stories, a powerful refugee perspective, and practical strategies, it will help you deliver on the promise of making education the great equalizer.”— BRAD GUSTAFSON, National Distinguished Principal, Author of Reclaiming Our Calling

“America is at a crossroads, yet Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness tells us that a path to a better America can be made in our very own schools, with compassion, hope, and Vu’s six conditions for a culture of literacy for all. This master storyteller weaves together his own immigrant story, his school’s successes, and reading research into a beautifully inclusive fabric. This book will not only help you grow professionally, but truly touch your soul!”
JOANNE DEVINE, Past President of the California Reading Association and Placer Area Reading Council, Lifelong Educator and Reading Specialist Reading

“There are few books I’ve read that speak as deeply to my heart as Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Don Vu takes you on a personal journey that is incredibly accessible and filled with takeaways for all educators who care deeply about equitable education. This is a book I’ll give to educator friends because I believe it’s a book we all need, not only for our own hearts but also for our students’.” — TODD NESLONEY, Director of Culture & Strategic Leadership, Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association; Author of When Kids Lead: An Adult’s Guide to Inspiring, Empowering, and Growing Young Leaders

“Vu intimately understands the power books have to shape identity, particularly for young newcomers who seek belonging. Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness is a compassionate and creative guide that challenges teachers to reimagine the role and importance of books in the lives of their immigrant students. Weaving in stories of his own, from growing up as a refugee in the United States to his years of success in classrooms and as a principal, Vu is a vital voice for educators.” — JESSICA LANDER, teacher of recent immigrant and refugee students, Author of Driving Backwards, and Coauthor of Powerful Partnerships: Engaging Families for Student Success, co-founder (with her former students) of the national We Are America Project

“As our student population continues to grow more diverse, this book is needed on every educator’s shelf. Don has tackled some of the realities our immigrant youth experience and gives practical strategies to educators. Honest, timely, and an insight on what it is to live a true literacy American Dream.”—LYNMARA COLÓN, Director of English Learner Programs and Services, Prince William County Schools; Author of Empower Our Girls: Opening Doors for Girls to Achieve More

“What a gem of a book! Elementary principal Don Vu speaks from the trenches and from the heart, providing a pathway to inspiring all children to read, especially those from diverse language backgrounds. He encourages us to examine our potential blind spots on equity, race, and poverty, while guiding us to make important shifts that impact students’ achievement and lives.” —LORI OCZKUS, Author and Literacy Consultant

“In this exhilarating text, Don Vu shares his immigration story as the impetus for educators and families to create rich, literacy lives with ‘books everywhere.’ He convincingly argues that achieving the American dream is only possible for refugees, immigrants, and other vulnerable groups if all ‘kids are educated and liberated.’ To that end, in Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Vu brilliantly describes how to create and sustain compassionate schools and classrooms where all languages and cultures are celebrated and all literacy learners thrive.” — REGIE ROUTMAN, Educator and Author of Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners

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