Thirty years ago, Lucy Calkins, fresh from apprenticing in the British Primary Schools, teaching in elementary, middle and high schools, and from working for several years with Don Graves on the nation's first big study of writing development, joined the faculty of Teachers College, Columbia University. While researching writing development for the National Institute of Education, Lucy had also been working as a staff developer in a score of schools and now, with her new responsibilities at the university, she needed to bring others aboard to help her continue supporting those schools. Within a few years, a cadre of people who had been Lucy's students were now functioning as the organization's founding team. Georgia Heard, Ralph Fletcher, JoAnn Portalupi and Shelley Harwayne were among the members of that initial team.
Although the earliest work of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project focused only on writing, for more than twenty years now the focus has been equally divided between reading and writing. During its initial years, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project worked almost exclusively in New York City’s schools, and always New York City has been central to the TCRWP’s mission. The TCRWP was central to the much heralded literacy reforms in District 2, to NYC’s involvement with New Standards (Lucy was one of the writers of those standards) and when Chancellor Klein announced a common curriculum for NYC schools, he did so at PS 172, a TCRWP stronghold, with Lucy at his side, saying, “The curriculum in this school is the curriculum for this City.”
This announcement meant that the TCRWP needed to scale up so as to help schools across the entire City embrace reading and writing workshops. Concurrently, the demand for staff development in literacy also skyrocketed outside New York City, and the Reading Writing Project LLC was developed to meet that need.
The Reading and Writing Project LLC, then, was started approximately a decade ago (although national and international work preceded the founding of the LLC) as an effort to extend and deepen support to schools throughout the nation and in other nations. Since then, the Reading and Writing Project has worked in hundreds of districts, including nearby suburbs such as Scarsdale, Roslyn and Chappaqua, charter schools such as the Promise Academy and KIPP schools, and whole cities including Chicago, Albany, and Seattle. The Reading and Writing Project has also been involved in local schools across nations such as Israel, Sweden, and Jordan, in American schools in Paris, London, Singapore, Mexico City, and in international schools in equally far-flung places.