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    ILA's Latest Brief Defines Contexts of Learning in a Digital Age

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 31, 2018
    July LLB

    Instead of relying on the latest device or app, administrators should leverage the expertise of teachers to sustain classrooms that reflect the contexts of learning encountered in the real world, according to ILA's latest brief, Improving Digital Practices for Literacy, Learning, and Justice: More Than Just Tools.

    In our increasingly technology-driven and globalized world, literacy instruction should prepare students to “produce, communicate, interpret and socialize with peers, adults and the broader world.” These skills require a mastery of written and spoken language as well as a familiarity with literary devices and rhetorical structures and must translate across digital and analog worlds.

    “Intentionally building time for these online and offline literacy practices allows students to see themselves as agents of change across settings,” says the brief.

    The brief discusses the importance of designing digital instruction that mirrors the kinds of work environments students will eventually encounter in their personal and professional worlds. This means a shift away from rote instructional practices, rooted in individual tools, and toward digital resources that inspire students to “make, play, design, hack and innovate.”  

    The brief also explores technology’s potential role in perpetuating power structures and widening achievement gaps. When students do not have access to digital tools and resources, they are denied valuable forms of production and amplification that help spotlight areas of necessary advocacy.

    “When school administrators take away students’ phones or tell them to put them away during class time, they are teaching implicit lessons about the kind of work environments these students are expected to enter. In this light, digital literacies are a matter of social justice.”

    Instead of trying to disrupt inequality with “expensive devices,” the brief suggests that administrators invest in teacher knowledge of the contexts of literacy learning. This approach empowers students to participate in authentic learning activities that prepare them for real-world demands.

    The brief closes with a list of limitations to what digital resources can do (i.e., act as a cure-all for legacies of inequity) and a set of next steps.

    Access the full brief here.

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

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    ILA’s First-Ever Children’s Literature Day Brings Message of Hope Full Circle

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 27, 2018
    Marley Dias and Kwame Alexander If we learned anything at the ILA 2018 Conference, it’s that changemaking work is fueled by two feelings: hope and frustration. This year’s theme, Be a Changemaker, was about identifying a problem, and finding the tools, connections, and strategies needed to drive a solution.

    And there’s perhaps no greater harbinger of hope than 14-year-old Marley Dias, the face of the next generation of changemakers. 

    The inaugural Children’s Literature Day opened with a message of hope when Dias took the stage to deliver the opening keynote. Dias reflected on how she turned her frustration about the books she was seeing in school, which offered no mirrors but rather windows that “only opened up to one place and one type of experience”—that of white boys and their dogs—into a movement. She started the #1000BlackGirlBooksProject, a campaign to collect 1,000 books with black girl protagonists that she would then donate to libraries around the country.

    “That singular and exclusive experience frustrated me, and I decided to do something about it,” she said.

    She has since collected more than 12,000 books, appeared on the Ellen Show, interviewed Hillary Clinton, and written her first book, Marley Dias Gets It Done. Dias spoke about the importance of diverse books, inspiring activism in young people, and embracing difference.

    “Reading allows us to see the humanity in others who are not like us,” she said. “Embracing difference is essential if you want to be a changemaker.”

    “Each of us has a magic inside of us that we can use to make the world a better place.”

    The New York Times bestselling-author Kwame Alexander joined her onstage for a Q&A session that was equal parts funny and poignant. The two discussed their new books, their shared love of poetry, and the age-old war between Nigerian and Ghanaian jollof rice.   

    Attendees then dispersed for the morning session of author meetups, panels, and signings. Four categories of meetups (Early Reader, Middle Grade, Early Young Adult, and Older Young Adult) featured a mix of up-and-comers and well-established veterans, including Megan McDonald, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Peter H. Reynolds.

    During a new event, the Latinx panel, moderator Oralia Garza de Cortés, cofounder of the American Library Association's Pura Belpré Award, lead a discussion with four authors whose works celebrate Latinx family culture. They tackled questions of identity and stereotyping, authentic cultural voice, and “the single story.”

    After attendees reconvened at noon for a formal lunch, former ILA Board member Julie Scullen took the stage next to present the ILA Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards. Following was a keynote by fifth-grade teacher and Nerdy Book Club founder Colby Sharp, who made the audience laugh and cry as he shared videos from his mock Caldecott unit, which showed students’ celebratory cries and looks of defeat when the actual award winners were announced. 

    He spoke about how to inspire a lifelong love of reading in young people, the value of family and community engagement; and the importance of leading by example.

    “We have a responsibility to make sure a kid never feels like a level, to make sure kids feel like readers, and to make sure kids have all the books,” he said. 

    After an afternoon of more meetups, panels, and signings, Alexander returned to the stage to deliver a dynamic closing keynote. He recited original poetry and shared videos of his first poetry workshop held in a juvenile detention center, an experience that showed him how language can empower and effect change. 

    Alexander brought the message of hope full circle when he shared the fruits of his own changemaker work: the Literacy Empowerment and Action Project, a health clinic and library in the rural village of Konko, Ghana, that facilitates student scholarship opportunities, literacy training for teachers, girls’ empowerment workshops, and career development projects. He closed ILA 2018 on an inspiring note.

    “Read the change. Be the change. Share the change. Make the change.”

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.
     
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    ILA Recognizes Top Children's and Young Adult Titles at Annual Awards Ceremony

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 25, 2018

    CLD Awards CeremonyILA announced the winners of the ILA Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards on Monday at the ILA 2018 Conference in Austin, TX.

    The books on this year’s list comprise a wide range of genres and styles, transport readers around the world to places such as Cuba and Iran, and explore edifying themes, including mental illness, family life and tradition, and racial prejudice and police brutality.

    In its 43rd year, the awards program recognizes newly published authors who show exceptional promise in the children’s and young adult book fields. Awards were presented for fiction and nonfiction in each of three categories: primary, intermediate, and young adult.

    "Notable authors like Laurence Yep (winner of the formerly named Laura Ingalls Wilder Award), Christopher Paul Curtis (three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award) and Lois Lowry (winner of two Newberry Medals for Number the Stars and The Giver) were recognized with this award early in their illustrious careers,” said teaching and learning specialist and past ILA Board member Julie Scullen, who presented the awards.

    The 2018 award winners are:

    Primary Fiction

    Winner: The Book of Mistakes. Corinna Luyken. 2017. Dial.

    Honor: Little Fox in the Forest. Stephanie Graegin. 2017. Schwartz & Wade.

    Primary Nonfiction

    Winner: This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World. Matt Lamothe. 2017. Chronicle.

    Intermediate Fiction

    Winner: Train I Ride. Paul Mosier. 2017. HarperCollins.

    Honor: The Notations of Cooper Cameron. Jane O’Reilly. 2017. Carolrhoda.

    Intermediate Nonfiction

    Winner: Marti’s Song for Freedom. Emma Otheguy. 2017. Lee & Low.

    Young Adult Fiction

    Winner: Words on Bathroom Walls. Julia Walton. 2017. Random House.

    Honor: The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. HarperCollins.

    Young Adult Nonfiction

    Winner: Obsessed: A Memoir of My Life With OCD. Allison Britz. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    “Congratulations to all of our award winners,” said Scullen. “I’m excited to get all of these books into the hands of young readers.”

    Additional information on ILA’s awards can be found here.

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

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    ILA 2018 Equity in Education Panel Helps Educators Create Inclusive Spaces for LGBTQ Students

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 24, 2018
    Equity in Education Panel 2018

    For the audience of ILA’s Equity in Education panel, Literacy and Our LGBTQ Students: Starting and Sustaining Schoolwide Transformation, which took place this weekend at the ILA 2018 Conference in Austin, TX, the message was clear: If you want to create a school climate where LGBTQ students feel comfortable, start with empathy.
     
    Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group focused entirely on K–12 education, delivered the opening keynote, weaving her personal narrative with statistics about LGBTQ risk factors.

    “Today, I’m here as a lesbian who grew up in the U.S., whose life was saved by my relationship with books,” she said. “I simply want to say how much it means to be here with people whose work is dedicated to unlocking the incredible joys of literacy for children now, because it meant the world to me.”
     
    Byard also discussed GLSEN’s recent initiatives in response to the wave of discriminatory legislation attempted to roll-back efforts for LGBTQ equity. The organization has been a leading advocate for the repeal of so-called “no promo homo laws” that ban teachers from discussing LGBTQ topics in a positive light. Texas is one of seven states where these laws are still in effect—a fact that Byard used to underline the urgency of their work.
     
    “Change is possible; individuals can make a difference,” she said. “You cannot improve school climate if you don’t take these issues on.”
     
    She then opened the conversation to the panelists: Kris De Pedro, assistant professor at the College of Educational Studies at Chapman University; Amy Fabrikant, staff developer at the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility; Courtney Farrell, founder of The Journey Project; Jessica Lifschitz, Heinemann Scholar and fifth-grade teacher; Kate Roberts, author and literacy consultant; Dana Stachowiak, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; and Tim’m West, senior managing director of the LGBTQ Community Initiative at Teach for America. 

    After introducing  themselves and stating their preferred pronouns, they spent the next hour unpacking and strategizing on a wide range of LGBTQ issues in education, from language to libraries.
     
    The danger of staying silent
     
    When asked about their first steps toward creating an LGBTQ-inclusive school climate, several panelists shared their own journeys of self-acceptance. 
     
    Stachowiak spent much of her teaching career wearing dresses and heels, skirting questions about her personal life, and avoiding LGBTQ topics in the classroom. Ultimately, it was a conversation with a student that inspired her to embrace her authentic self at work. 
     
    “A little girl in my classroom who had been really spunky and really gifted academically just started to go downhill and got quiet. I found out through her peers that she had been writing love letters to other girls in the classroom, and they were uncomfortable with that. I didn’t know what to do because I felt like if I supported her, I would be outed," she said. “I made it all about me at that moment—there was wanting to protect my student and there was wanting to protect myself, and that kind of overshadowed, unfortunately.”
     
    When the school counselor failed to take action and the student’s social and emotional well-being continued to decline, Stachowiak realized it was time for her to overcome her fears and focus on the needs of the student confiding in her. 
     
    “I just said, you know what? I can’t just continue to watch this happen,” she said. “That was me, as a kid.”

    Stachowiak’s story sparked a conversation about the dangers of silencing these topics in the classroom and addressed concerns about parent, administrator, or community pushback. 

    “There are a bunch of schools where the adults haven't moved to the same degree as our young people have,” said Roberts. “And I think that’s because, and others will echo, we’re terrified of the parents, we’re so scared of parent communities complaining.”

    Roberts reminded the audience that they can be loud, too.

    “We can complain too, right? We can be the annoying flashing light that someone’s terrified of, being like, ‘Why don’t you have more books that represent all kids? Why isn’t your curriculum more inclusive?’ I don’t think we do become that squeaky wheel enough,” she said. “So the loudest person in the community is the bigoted one.”

    Creating social-emotional benchmarks
     
    Before coming out to his students, West had to overcome his own perception of what it means to be a role model, a responsibility he cherished as one of the few black, male educators in his district.
     
    “Often when we talk about how our young boys need strong, black men [role models], there’s a lot of gendering and homophobia associated with that,” he said. “It may not be pronounced, but the assumption is that you’re masculine, of center, and heterosexual.”
     
    West reached his tipping point when he heard his students using the word “gay” as an insult. Instead of reacting, he decided to use that moment as a learning opportunity; he asked the students to clarify what they meant and, as a class, they read aloud the dictionary definition of the word. 

    His next step was to openly identify with that word. 
     
    “The power of my own decision to come out in that setting was just remarkable. After that, the way that they treated each other, the way they dealt with things, was so much different,” said West. “We had created a culture, in that classroom, in that school—where being gay was really awesome.”

    To West, this experience highlights the need for more social and emotional development work in the classroom. He wants to see more open, respectful dialogue around these topics.

    “When we talk about teaching and testing, when we talk about benchmarks—where are people and where do we want them to grow—we have to do the same thing around social-emotional competencies—not only for our students, but for our teachers.” 

    Students can be teachers, too  

    There was a consensus among all of the panelists about the importance of trusting in students’ wisdom and opening spaces for them to lead inclusivity efforts.

    “I think it’s important to remind ourselves that students come to school with incredible funds of knowledge,” said De Pedro. “In many ways, our students are more sophisticated and more involved than the teachers and the adults in our schools. Our students are teachers too; they can actually lead in these efforts.”

    Farrell said educators should focus on demonstrating they are truly listening by turning students’ words into actions. 

    “It’s learning what it is that the children need from us. Opening up spaces to say, ‘What would you like? What do you seek? What are your experiences?’” she said. “And whenever we open up spaces to hear, and they give us information, following it by action. So saying, “What you say matters, and here’s what we’re going to do about it.’”

    You don’t know what you don’t know

    Byard closed the panel by asking the panelists to share an action item for attendees to take back to their practices. 

    “I would echo the idea that it starts with us, recognizing that we don’t know what we don’t know,” said Farrell. “To dig deep into spaces that we may not have personally lived ourselves. So, a lot of listening, a lot of research, a lot of introspection, a lot of reading.”

    De Pedro similarly encouraged the audience to continuously challenge their assumptions and to seek new ways of knowing. 

    “Admitting you don’t know something and admitting you’re wrong are the two most powerful things educators can—and should—do,” he said.

    Fabrikant urged educators hold regular check-ins where students can discuss their feelings.

    "Just to know what everyone is bringing into the room," she said. "I really do believe in having a space just to share what’s alive in us."

    Panelists also discussed the importance of intersectional thinking, using conscious language, and fully integrating LGBTQ topics into the curriculum.
     
    Stachowiak closed the conversation with a powerful call to action. 

    “We need to be those voices to say, ‘Yes I can, and yes I will.’ Believe in yourselves that you can do this work and you’re not alone. Even if it’s just starting with you, just look around this room—this is a room full of accomplices,” she said. “This is where the revolution starts.”
     
    The livestreamed conversation, sponsored by Heinemann Publishing, was archived on ILA’s Facebook page and can be viewed here

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

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    ILA Announces Winners of William S. Gray Citation Merit, Other Awards at Annual Conference

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 23, 2018
    Nell K. Duke Award

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) presented the William S. Gray Citation of Merit to Nell K. Duke, a professor in literacy, language, and culture and in the combined program in education and psychology at the University of Michigan, School of Education, this weekend at the ILA 2018 Conference in Austin, Texas.

    The William S. Gray Citation of Merit, ILA's most prestigious award, is reserved for those ILA members who have made outstanding contributions to multiple facets of literacy development—research, theory, practice, and policy. A former member of ILA's Literacy Research Panel, Duke was recognized for her work on early literacy development, particularly among children of poverty, specifically in the development of informational reading and writing in young children, comprehension development, and issues of equity and access in literacy education.

    "William S. Gray was the first president of this organization and was a pivotal contributor to our knowledge of the reading process," said Timothy Shanahan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and past recipient of the William S. Gray Citation of Merit, who presented the award to Duke. "More than any other ILA award, this one is for lifetime achievement and a career of contributions."

    Duke teaches preservice, inservice, and doctoral courses in literacy education; speaks and consults widely on literacy education; has served as coprincipal investigator on projects funded by Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and Lucas Education Research, among other organizations; and is the author and coauthor of numerous journal articles, book chapters and books, including Inside Information: Developing Powerful Readers and Writers of Informational Text through Project-Based Instruction and Beyond Bedtime Stories: A Parent's Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills from Birth to 5

    "I want to thank Tim [Shanahan] and the members of the committee and ILA," said Duke. "It's not really an award for me; it's an award for all the major collaborators I had the pleasure of working with over the years."

    In addition, the Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan Outstanding Dissertation Award, given annually for a dissertation completed in reading or literacy, was presented to Elena E. Forzani, assistant professor in literacy education at the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Her dissertation, How Well Can Students Evaluate Online Science Information? Contributions of Prior Knowledge, Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Offline Reading Ability, investigated how well seventh-grade students evaluated the credibility of online information in science.

    Other award highlights include:

    • The Corwin Literacy Leader Award was presented by ILA to Esmeralda Carini, literacy district educational specialist for the Winward District, Kailua-Kalaheo Complex Area, Hawaii Department of Education.
    • Julie Coiro, associate professor of reading at the University of Rhode Island, received the Erwin Zolt Digital Literacy Game Changer Award.
    • The Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading Award was presented to Sharon Walpole, professor at the School of Education at the University of Delaware.
    • Mark Conley, professor of instruction and curriculum leadership at the University of Memphis, TN, was the recipient of the inaugural Leaders Inspiring Readers Award, sponsored by Achieve 3000.
    • The Maryann Manning Special Service Award was presented to Diane Barone, foundation professor of literacy at the University of Nevada, Reno.
    • The Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Grant was awarded to Keith Garvert, a teacher at Highline Community School, Denver, CO.

    The full list of award recipients can be found here.

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

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