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    • ILA Network

    Innovation in Europe

    By Ann-Sofie Selin
     | Dec 03, 2019

    Professional development program in Italy receives literacy promotion award

    LT Feature_DEC19
    The European Literacy Network has a long and well-documented history. In Denmark, approximately 70 years ago, our Scandinavian colleagues gathered to share knowledge on this very subject. The ideology of working toward literacy for all has endured and the activities have increased considerably. The Nordic collaboration evolved into some 30 European associations gathering under the umbrella of the International Reading Association (IRA), now the International Literacy Association (ILA). Today, we are the Federation of European Literacy Associations (FELA), the European partner of ILA.

    In August, in Copenhagen, the 21st European and the 18th Nordic Conference on Literacy continued the tradition of disseminating research and practice. A total of 500 participants attended the conference, 385 with presentations. Both the speakers and the participants were from all over the world. The Nordic conference 70 years ago has transformed into a truly international conference. Literacy for all is a human right. The conference and the work all of us do is a representation of cohesive forces.

    One of the initiatives of the European network is the Award for Innovative Literacy Promotion in Europe, which is presented at the European literacy conferences every other year (with the next in Dublin in 2021).

    First presented in Brussels at the 10th European Conference on Literacy in 1997, the purpose of the award is to recognize, celebrate, and reward innovative work in Europe carried out by or for a FELA member association. It must constitute a change in literacy activities within the country and can involve pedagogy, research, contributions to thinking about literacy, professional development, remediation, organization of the association, publication, publicity, or recruitment of members.

    The Awards Committee consists of past European chairpersons of FELA, formerly IDEC (International Development in Europe Committee) of IRA/ILA. The award has been presented to projects in Croatia, Estonia, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and, this year, Italy.

    The themes have included bibliotherapy for war-traumatized children, children’s literature, parents in prisons reading for their children, deaf children, Romani in libraries, and many more innovative literacy projects.

    The recipient this year was Invito alla Lettura - Rai Scuola for its aim of improving the professional development of teachers in Italy in the field of literacy.

    Invito alla Lettura is a distance learning program addressed to teachers of kindergarten, primary, and secondary school, and it includes three TV and web series of 30 episodes. Its main goals are improving the quality of teaching literacy and promoting good reading practices that can be replicated by classroom teachers. The program can reach a wide audience and those areas of the country where there is greater need for training, disseminating the new knowledge of literacy achieved today through international research. It is produced by the national TV service, RAI Cultura, and CEPELL, the Centre for Books and Reading, a branch of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

    The project was initiated by Tiziana Mascia, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education of the Free University of Bozen, whose research focuses on literacy instruction and professional development. She received the award in person during the conference on behalf of the youngest European member association of FELA, Associazione Literacy Italia.

    To view the Invito alla Lettura episodes, visit

    For information on the Award for Innovative Literacy Promotion in Europe, visit

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  • Reflections NovDec19 LT
    • Putting Books to Work

    Reading the World

     | Nov 19, 2019

    Offering stories that reflect our contemporary communities is important for our children. “Let’s read the world” is a goal to champion! As a classroom and special education teacher, and now a university professor in curriculum, I’m interested in the opportunities we have in schools and libraries to teach so much more than literacy when we’re teaching the language arts. 

    In my role as a researcher in children’s literature, I’ve been exploring patterns and trends that should be concerning to educators. How many of the titles we share in our classrooms reflect people with exceptionalities? Are we representing gender in diverse, nonstereotypical ways? Could we do better in messages that help save our planet, that inspire children to care for each other and themselves, that break down barriers?

    I think of some amazing teachers I had in my own classroom contexts. Mrs. Gaston read aloud from Meindert deJong’s House of Sixty Fathers (HarperCollins) and—even today, almost 50 years later—I can recall everything about the way this exceptional story motivated discussions that we would not have initiated on our own. Mrs. Nichols shared Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (Macmillan) and Paul Zindel’s The Pigman (HarperTeen), two books I occasionally reread today for the courage they bring. But these teachers were the exception rather than the rule, and I continue to see classrooms where reading to students is not a key activity.

    Some titles I share with my undergraduate students that bring currency and engagement to their preservice teaching experiences are Kai Cheng Thom’s From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea (Arsenal Pulp Press), Sara Leach’s Penguin Days (Pajama Press), Sara Cassidy’s A Boy Named Queen (Groundwood Books), Beth Goobie’s Jason’s Why (Red Deer Press), Pamela Porter’s The Crazy Man (Groundwood Books), Kate DiCamillo’s The Tiger Rising (Candlewick), Cynthia Lord’s Rules (Scholastic), Kenneth Oppel’s Darkwing (HarperCollins), Arthur Slade’s Dust (Random House), Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim (Groundwood Books), and Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse (Douglas &McIntyre).

    If you are a teacher who shares great literature with your students, or a teacher educator who models readalouds, I am grateful. You truly make a difference!

    Beverley Brenna (, an ILA member since 2009, is a professor in Curriculum Studies at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan, Canada. She has published more than a dozen books for young people including the Wild Orchid trilogy (Red Deer Press) about a teen with autism (winner of a Printz Honor Book Award, a Dolly Gray Award, shortlisted for a Canadian Governor General’s Award, and listed on CBC’s “Young Adult Books That Make You Proud To Be Canadian”). She aims through her artistic work to address the gaps that she sees in literature for young people. Her most recent middle grade novels are examples: Fox Magic (Red Deer Press) explores mental health and suicide prevention and Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life (Pajama Press) invites discussions of diversity through LGBTQ+ characters.

    This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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  • NovemberILAChat _Graphics_600x600
    • ILA Network

    #ILAchat: How Early Childhood Writing Instruction Can Help Improve Literacy

     | Nov 12, 2019

    Thousands of educators and researchers converged on New Orleans, LA, last month for the ILA 2019 Conference. Interactive panels, casual conversations, and thought-provoking sessions led to new themes emerging from the conference that sparked fresh ideas. 
    NovemberILAChat _Graphics

    For our next #ILAchat, we will be discussing a theme that continues to generate

    Our special guests include conversation: how early childhood writing instruction can help improve literacy. Join us on Thursday, November 14, at 8 p.m. ET to chat with experts about how early writing instruction and practice impacts the future of literacy. 

    • Sonia Cabell, an assistant professor in the College of Education and the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University. Cabell previously worked as a second-grade teacher and literacy coach. Her research focuses on early language and literacy intervention, with a particular interest in preventing reading difficulties among children living in poverty. Cabell has authored more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals, numerous publications for practitioners including articles on the topic of early writing, the book Emergent Literacy: Lessons for Success (Plural Publishing), a multitiered preschool language and literacy curriculum with classroom and home components, and a kindergarten writing curriculum. She currently serves as associate editor for the scholarly journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly. Cabell has served as principal investigator or coprincipal investigator on grant projects totaling approximately $6 million. She recently gave a TEDx Talk, “Writing Into Literacy,” on fostering early writing development in preschool.
    • Jennifer Albro, an ELA lecturer at Johns Hopkins School of Education and Lead Clinical Faculty for Literacy in the Urban Teachers DC program. She earned a PhD in literacy education from the University of Maryland and is a former reading interventionist for upper elementary grades and classroom teacher for early elementary grades. In her current position, she has the opportunity to work with colleagues who develop and prepare teachers in Washington, DC, to make changes starting in the classroom through rigorous coursework and supportive coaching. In collaboration with her former doctoral advisor, Jennifer D. Turner, she worked on a research project with novice teachers in the Urban Teachers program and published findings from their summer 2017 project. (Albro, J. & Turner, J.D. [2019]. Six key principles: Bridging students’ career dreams and literacy standards. The Reading Teacher, 73(2), 161–)

    Follow #ILAchat and @ILAToday at 8 p.m. ET this Thursday, November 14, to join the conversation with Cabell, Albro, and ILA as we discuss early writing instructing and connecting research and practice.


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  • young-boy-writing_w140
    • The Engaging Classroom
    • Teaching Tips

    Research-Based Literacy Instruction Strategies

     | Nov 05, 2019

    Every time students pick up a new word or understand the deeper meaning behind a story, their passion for reading grows and prepares them for a future of rich literacy education. The end goal for educators is to instill passion in their students to keep reaching for books. However, getting students to that point can be difficult. No one learner is exactly like another, and every student comes with personal learning preferences and challenges, which pose a major hurdle when it comes to collective classroom learning. 

    Research-based instruction strategies can help educators reach all of their students regardless of the differences among them. Not only do these strategies offer proven evidence for what does and doesn’t work, but they also propose ideas and tactics that educators may have never even thought of implementing in their classroom.  

    We’ve compiled a list of research-based methods for maximizing literacy instruction. Check out the links below for ways to improve the reading experience of our young students:

    Of course, just like every student, every classroom is also different. A concept that works well in one (or many) may be ineffective in another. The most important part is that educators never stop trying until they find the most effective strategies to complement their unique group of students.

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  • magic-read-aloud-th
    • Teaching Tips

    Trick-or-Read! Tricks for Treating Your Classroom to Halloween Literacy Activities

     | Oct 29, 2019

    While your students are focused on optimizing their trick-or-treat routes in order to get as much candy as possible, keeping their attention in the classroom can be difficult. But don’t let that spook you—take advantage of their Halloween excitement! This list of candy-coated classroom activities, terrifying tales, and phantasmic prompts are sure to keep things from getting “boo-ring.”

    • The National Education Association’s list of Halloween lesson plans for grades K–5 includes hands-on activities, printable worksheets, and more to help welcome the spooky spirit into your classroom.
    • TeachHUB offers suspense-filled reading and writing activities for teaching literacy concepts, language skills, and the historical roots of the holiday to horror enthusiasts of all ages.
    • Keep the day not-so-spooky with some storytelling. A Teachable Teacher’s guide to Halloween books provides descriptions for each book and some accompanying activities so you can make the best pick suited for your students whether they prefer witches or mummies.
    • Scholastic’s list of writing prompts offers 11 “spooktacular” story starters to get your students to express their excitement for Halloween through creative writing.
    • Halloween coincides with the Mexican holiday Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. EduHup’s resource roundup features ways to immerse your classroom into the holiday’s rich history and traditions, which will not only broaden your students’ knowledge but also help them develop an appreciation for other cultures.

    Share your classroom Halloween ideas with @ILAToday on Twitter!

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