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    ILA Offers Guidelines for Integrating Digital Technologies Into Early Literacy Education

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Apr 23, 2019

    Although digital technologies are widely per­vasive in homes, schools, and communities, there remains little consensus about how they should be used in early childhood literacy education. A new brief released by the International Literacy Association (ILA), Digital Resources in Early Childhood Literacy Development, seeks to create a set of common guidelines for evaluating screen time.

    As the meaning of reading and writing continues to evolve, there is an urgent need to “link play and literacy to the multimodal opportunities offered by new digital media,” says ILA.

    “The wealth of often conflicting information around the use of digital tools in literacy instruction has only led to more confusion and has stirred valid concerns regarding quality, safety, and overconsumption,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Drawing on the latest research and with these concerns in mind, we created a formula for balanced technology integration.”

    The brief highlights the social and academic benefits of high-quality digital technologies, such as stronger pathways for language learning, multimodal meaning making, and home–school connections. ILA maintains that—when judiciously selected and intentionally used—digital texts and tools can build children’s literacy and communication skills while preparing them for long-term academic success.

    ILA offers four guidelines for making decisions about how best to integrate digital technologies into early childhood contexts, including blending the use of digital and nondigital resources and building home–school connections, with concrete steps for accomplishing each, such as acting as media mentors for caregivers who may not be aware of quality interactive media resources.

    Access the full brief here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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    Finding Family in the Community

    By Allister Chang
     | Apr 18, 2019
    chang-LTIn an episode of the This American Life public radio program called "What's Going On In There?," Ira Glass shares the story of a Chinese-American son who can't speak to his father. The father never taught his son Chinese, but the father also never learned English. This almost happened to me! My parents, aunts, and uncles had learned Chinese as children, and they thought their kids would pick up the language naturally on their own—­as they themselves had—and they spoke to me in broken English. I was developing a Chinese accent when I spoke English, and I also wasn't learning any Chinese ­until a librarian intervened. 

    After speaking with this librarian, my parents spoke to me only in Chinese, providing me an opportunity to grow up bilingual. Thinking back on my childhood, I remember many specific interventions like this one, where a kind, thoughtful, and brave educator stepped up to make an intervention that changed the course of my life. 

    I think that these kinds of transformative interventions—the ones that determine whether you'll share a common language with your own father—are possible coming only from people that you trust. As recent immigrants to the United States with limited English fluency, and an even more limited social network, knowing who to trust wasn't easy for my parents. Ads left and right promised scams. Who could we trust besides family? 

    My mother is the one who brought our local library into the family (and vice versa). As a kid, she escaped boredom by hiding in wealthier families' gardens to listen in on TV sets. When they chased her away, she read books. We would fill a bag of books for her at our local library in Maryland every week. When she finished reading every available Chinese language book in our local library system, the librarians ordered new Chinese titles. 

    We began to build trusting relationships with our local librarians, and the world opened up to us in new ways. They alerted us to scams and referred us to relevant resources that we would otherwise have never looked for. 

    We had found people who we trusted, and I am deeply grateful that we put our trust in kind people who just happened to be experts at guiding the wandering and the lost. 

    Allister Chang is a 2019 ILA 30 Under 30 honoree. Chang, the former executive director of Libraries Without Borders. is an affiliate with Harvard University's Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society, and a fellow with Voqal. a philanthropic organization that uses technology and media to advance social equity. 

    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of
    Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.
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    Leading ILA Journal Launches Podcast

    By Bailee Formon
     | Apr 10, 2019

    rrq-podcastAlthough there are numerous resources available to help educators find new tools and strategies to use in their classrooms, translating these resources into practice is not always easy. For this reason, the editors of ILA’s Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ), Amanda Goodwin, an assistant professor in language, literacy, and culture at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and Robert T. Jiménez, professor in ELL and literacy education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, recently created two platforms to make new information more accessible to educators.

    A new podcast, Bridge Research to Practice: Live With the Author, and Facebook group support ILA’s mission to deepen understandings in ways that impact research and practice.

    Bridging research to practice

    Launched in January, Bridge Research to Practice: Live With the Author features in-depth interviews with authors of key RRQ pieces. Literacy thought leaders dive deep into their background, how they became interested in their article topic, and their RRQ study. The interviews culminate with important takeaways as well as tangible steps that educators can take to make positive changes in their own classrooms.

    Goodwin says they chose podcasts as the medium because episodes can be accessed anytime, anywhere—making them a convenient option for a time-strapped audience. As fellow educators, Goodwin and Jiménez understand that the standard school schedule allows little time for teachers to engage in professional learning. Podcasts—which can be played via smart phone, computer, or smart speakers such as Alexa—allow listeners to get personalized professional development while driving or cooking dinner.

    The editors choose recent RRQ articles that present meaningful, relevant information so educators who follow the discussions can not only use the information presented by the researcher but also initiate conversations on the basis of on their own understanding. So far, they have interviewed authors on topics such as the impact of vocabulary intervention, second-language reading difficulties, and evaluating the credibility of online science information.

    Goodwin says she hopes the podcast will be an effective tool to reach new audiences and “convey research findings in a real way to help make an impact in classrooms, homes, and schools.” 

    “[We are] making the effort to bridge research to practice,” she says.

    Authors of our own experiences

    Another way to encourage discussion around these research findings is through the group’s new Facebook page, open to RRQ subscribers and nonsubscribers, where the editors highlight excerpts and takeaways from recent articles to help educators better digest the information and apply it to different contexts. The editors also post outside articles, questions, and discussion starters so members of the community can deepen their knowledge as well as share new information with peers.

    Goodwin describes the RRQ Facebook page as a platform for collaborative learning and conversation. Using hashtags such as #MeetTheResearchMonday, #TalkAboutItTuesday#WhatDoYouThinkWednesday, #TheoryToPracticeThursday, #FindOutMoreFriday, the editors facilitate dialogue around important topics and encourage members to build connections, exchange ideas, and share their own experiences.

    Goodwin says the space “let’s all of us be authors of our own experiences.”

    A growing community

    Although these new platforms have created opportunities for learning and discussion among teachers and educators, there is still room for growth. The next step is for RRQ readers and podcast listeners to bring these conversations to their schools, districts, and communities.

    Spreading the word about these resources can help to further grow this community and extend the reach of research. This network is for the benefit of students everywhere because, according to Goodwin, “What’s the point if you don’t change the lives of children?”

    Bailee Formon is an intern at the International Literacy Association.  

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    Access to Literacy: An Inalienable Right to Quality Education

    By Anasthasie N. Liberiste-Osirus
     | Apr 03, 2019

    Within the world of international education, there are more than 175 million children unable to read. In Latin America alone—in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Nicaragua, and Haiti—the national literacy average is below 80% countrywide. When looking specifically at Haiti, there is a 49% literacy rate, which makes it the lowest in the western hemisphere and the 12th lowest globally.

    Such numbers are shocking and call for a global paradigm shift centered on access interventions that support a culture of literacy.

    The issue at large

    Students everywhere have an inalienable right to quality education and literacy resources, but they are being denied this right because of systemic variables that are far too great to maneuver alone.

    Because of the generational and situational poverty within rural communities in Haiti, many children are subjected to toxic stressors as well as lack of available print and the foundational skills necessary to achieve academically. Yet reading is one of the core foundational skills needed for academic and economical success in modern society. Reading allows one to discover unfamiliar realms, provides exposure to vocabulary, develops positive self-image, invites creativity, and navigates the vehicle of change when one is forced to endure difficult situations.

    You see, starting the academic race late can have larger critical implications for societal growth in the long run. Research has shown us that a country's success in national academic assessments, such as in reading and math, can account for more than 70% of that country's economic growth. In countries such as Haiti, with large disparities in the acquisition of reading and writing skills, this link is daunting when considering national assessment results that reveal incoming third graders' zero fluency rate in either Haitian Creole or French.

    So what can be done to mitigate this harsh reality?

    Children's Rights to Read

    The work we do at the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) in Haiti program at the University of Notre Dame aims to address these issues. The ACE program strengthens underresourced schools through leadership, research, and professional service, with programs in place across the United States, as well as in Ireland, Chile, and Haiti.

    In Haiti, expanding access is one of the pillars of the program, which began as a way to help rebuild schools across the country following the devastating 2010 earthquake.

    Our mission is supported by the framework of ILA's recently launched Children's Rights to Read initiative. Composed of 10 fundamental rights ILA asserts every child deserves, the campaign aims to activate educators around the world to ensure every child, everywhere, receives access to the education, opportunities, and resources needed to read.

    This campaign shines a poignant spotlight on the current global literacy crisis.

    Among the rights

    •  Children have the right to access text in print and digital formats.
    • Children have the right to read for pleasure.
    • Children have the right to supportive reading environments with knowledgeable literacy partners.
    • Children have the right to read as a springboard for other forms of communication, such as writing, speaking, and visually representing.
    • Children have the right to benefit from the financial and material resources of governments, agencies, and organizations that support reading and reading instruction.

    Our intervention efforts in Haiti begin with access. Children must be afforded the opportunity to reflect on life's possibilities, and they can do this through high-quality resources such as books.

    There has been a series of interventions around increasing the level of access to books in countries such as Haiti. With many parents having fewer than three books in their homes and schools having minimal access to supplementary books in the classroom, the need to increase a modal response is vital.

    Organizations such as Libraries Without Borders, Library For All, and World Readers, to name a few, have made a ripple effect in the basin of illiteracy in Haiti. The University of Notre Dame's ACE program has also become innovative in its approach to literacy intervention by providing classroom libraries within its supported schools.

    We partner with local organizations to implement literacy interventions that deliver a scripted literacy program, teacher training, supportive coaching, quality resources, and leveled texts within the classroom. The goal is to support emergent readers, strengthen teaching pedagogy, and link community and school, all while increasing access.

    Anecdotal reports from students and teachers clearly demonstrate that they welcome having access to books in their mother tongue of Haitian Creole as well as the language of instruction, French. Students find reading sessions meaningful as they can practice reading all while extending oral vocabulary in Haitian Creole and French.

    Teachers participate in read-aloud sessions that provide students with the occasion to be reflective while thinking critically. The classroom libraries provide manipulatives such as phonics dominoes and vocabulary bingo. Teachers are also trained on the importance of increasing print in the classroom as well as how to set up and use Haitian Creole and French interactive word walls.

    One step at a time

    Though the establishment of schoolwide libraries is ideal for supplementing reading materials, it is not always a feasible option because of the financial constraints of many schools. However, it is important to remember that the battle to shift the axis of access must start small. Our efforts can be building blocks toward larger interventions.

    ILA's Children's Rights to Read initiative is the constant reminder we need that education for all is possible—­one building block at a time.

    Anasthasie N. Liberiste-­Osirus, an ILA member since 2011, is the associate director of the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education in Haiti program.

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

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    ILA 2019 Board Election Opens

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Mar 27, 2019

    BoardElection_w300The International Literacy Association (ILA) has commenced its annual election for its Board of Directors. Eligible ILA members are encouraged to vote for three at-large candidates and one vice president candidate. You can read about the candidates here.

    The ILA 2019 Board Election will be conducted entirely online. Individual ILA members with an active membership and a valid e-mail address will receive email reminders with a link to the online ballot. Eligible ILA members who do not have valid email addresses will receive instructions by mail for how they can vote online.

    If you haven’t received your email ballot, please confirm your membership is in good standing and that the email address connected to your membership is accurate by signing into your membership account or by phoning ILA’s Constituent Services Team at 800.336.7323 (U.S. and Canada) or 302.731.1600 (all other countries). 

    For assistance signing into your ILA membership account, please contact Andrew Arbitell, account manager for Intelliscan,

    The newly elected Board members will begin their terms on July 1, 2019.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of
    Literacy Daily. 

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