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    ILA Celebrates Literacy Achievements at Annual Awards Ceremony

    Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 17, 2017

    Katie Lett Kelly TaylorThe International Literacy Association (ILA) celebrated achievements in literacy research, instruction, and advocacy on Sunday afternoon at the ILA Literacy Leader Awards, part of the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits in Orlando, FL.

    ILA applauded both new and familiar faces—from 30 under 30 honorees to former presidents. Attendees traveled from as far as Perth, Australia, to accept their awards in person and deliver remarks.  

    ILA Associate Executive Director Stephen Sye said he is thrilled to honor this class of literacy leaders, and he looks forward to seeing what they accomplish next.

    “ILA is proud to recognize and present the Literacy Leader Awards to so many magnificent educators who are working tirelessly to bring literacy to all,” said Sye. “From our up-and-coming rising star teachers to our veteran educators who have served the organization with grace and passion, we’re confident that we can achieve our mission of advancing literacy worldwide with champions like those we were able to honor today.”

    Award highlights include:

    • ILA presented the inaugural Corwin Literacy Leader Award, which honors a district or school administrative literacy leader who has worked to increase student literacy achievement within a school or district by advancing professional development, instructional resources support, and the development of literacy programs. The first recipient of the Corwin Literacy Leader Award is David Wilkie, principal at McVey Elementary in Newark, DE. After returning from the ILA 2016 Conference & Exhibits, Wilkie was inspired to rebuild the school's culture of literacy. Wilkie has been working with ILA to implement independent reading time, school-wide author and book studies, interactive read-alouds, and other reading initiatives at McVey Elementary. This year, he returned to conference with a group of 23 teachers and staff members.
    • The ILA William S. Gray Citation of Merit Award, recognizing a nationally or internationally known individual for his or her outstanding contributions to the field of reading/literacy, was awarded to John Guthrie, the Jean Mullan Professor of Literacy Emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD. Guthrie is the former research director of ILA, a former fellow of the American Education Research Association and the American Psychological Association, a member of the ILA Hall of Fame, and a member of the National Academy of Education. His research focuses on motivations and strategies in reading at all school levels. 
    • Marique Daugherty, a 2015 ILA 30 Under 30 honoree, received the Technology and Literacy Award, which is given to a K–12 educator who is making an innovative contribution through the use of education technology. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Daugherty is currently a language and literacy specialist at Rosedale Hewens Academy Trust in Slough, UK. She holds a master’s degree in literacy studies from the University of the West Indies and has created and led literacy programs and institutes in Jamaica, including The Five Steps Literacy Program, which supports reading, comprehension, fluency, and word recognition.
    • Recognizing newly published authors who show extraordinary promise, ILA Children's and Young Adults' Book Awards were presented to Lori Preusch, Aimée Bissonette, Lindsay Eagar, Sandra Evans, Reyna Grande, Jeff Zentner, Karen Fortunati Devlin, and Nicolaia Rips.
    • The Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading, presented to a college or university teacher of reading methods or reading-related courses, was awarded to Peggy Semingson, professor of language and literacy studies at The University of Texas at Arlington. Her research interests include digital pedagogies to engage preservice and inservice teachers, socially distributed knowledge sharing that takes place online, and students who have difficulty in literacy learning. She has won two prestigious awards related to distance learning.
    • The ILA Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award, honoring an exceptional dissertation completed in the field of reading or literacy, was awarded to  Laura Northrop for Breaking the Cycle: Cumulative Disadvantage in Literacy, completed for the University of Pittsburgh. Chaired by Sean P. Kelly, Northrop’s dissertation was published in Reading Research Quarterly.
    • ILA past president Carmelita Williams received the ILA Special Service Award, which is given to an individual who has demonstrated unusual and distinguished service to the International Literacy Association. Williams is the former director of Norfolk State University’s Center of Excellence for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement.

    The full list of award winners is available here.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    We’re in This Together: How Chapters and Affiliates Can Work With Other Organizations to Promote Literacy Worldwide

    By Leandra Elion
     | Jul 13, 2017

    MRAJust the very act of reading this article sets us apart from millions of people in the world who do not have the skills to read and write. According to UNESCO, 12% of the world’s population is not functionally literate. Reading this staggering statistic and thinking about the vast numbers of people affected can be overwhelming. But the solution is not for the individual to solve; it is for all of us to solve.

    And when we want to be part of this work, it turns out that we are not alone. There are so many people and organizations around the world that are doing the important work of advancing literacy.

    The following is just one example. This is how the Massachusetts Reading Association (MRA) has become involved in the work of two important projects to advance literacy in South Africa.

    Forming partnerships

    Since 2009, MRA has made financial donations to the Family Literacy Project (FLP), a program based in a rural area in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Rooted in the knowledge that literacy begins at home before a child even enters formal schooling, the FLP supports parents and caregivers to create everyday opportunities to build early literacy skills. FLP trains home visitors to visit isolated rural families and support their literacy interactions with children. Very often the parents and caregivers want to improve their own literacy skills, and the FLP provides this training as well.

    In addition, the organization runs community libraries so adults and children alike can build and strengthen their reading skills. FLP runs four community libraries and other smaller libraries in boxes, much like Little Free Libraries, so that people throughout the 15 villages in the region can have access to reading materials. An outgrowth of these libraries has been reading clubs for children and teenagers.

    MRA’s newest international partnership was established last summer when our members attended a session at the ILA conference in Boston. Judith Baker, a consultant for the South African organization African Storybook, presented its creative and pragmatic work. One of the barriers to literacy in Africa is the lack of reading material in a child’s mother tongue. African Storybook has found a way to address this lack of reading material, not only for vernacular languages but also for culturally relevant characters and settings. African Storybook’s goal is to provide open access to picture storybooks in the languages of Africa so that children can develop literacy in their home language and experience the enjoyment and spark of imagination that reading can bring.

    On the basis of the difficulty of providing printed books and acknowledging that cell phone use is widespread throughout Africa, African Storybook creates stories in a digital format that can be downloaded and read on smartphones. Because the stories are all created as open source material, people can translate the stories into their language. They can also write their own stories to add to the collection.

    What you can do

    I traveled to South Africa, the country where I am originally from, last August. The purpose of my trip was not only to visit family but also to explore closer literacy connections between my former home and my new home in Massachusetts. During my visit, I was fortunate enough to make connections with the directors of both of these projects.

    In Johannesburg I met with the project leader of African Storybook, Tessa Welch. The remoteness of FLP precluded a visit, but I had many conversations with its director, Pierre Horn. From these discussions, it was obvious that financial support is always welcome. It takes money to buy books for FLP’s community libraries. It takes money to develop the apps and software to make stories accessible through African Storybook. But our support for the crucial literacy work of these organizations will go beyond our continued financial support.

    MRA’s International Projects Committee has plans to exchange expertise and strengthen the personal connections between the organizations. FLP is looking for skilled literacy teachers to provide training, especially in the area of struggling readers. This, of course, necessitates face-to-face training, either in Massachusetts or in South Africa. The logistics of raising funds and recruiting volunteers to travel and teach has become our new challenge to embrace.

    African Storybook needs people to translate and edit their open source stories into a myriad of African languages. Anyone literate in an African language can help directly in this project. And even if MRA and ILA members may not be fluent themselves, through our associations with universities and others, we can recruit the needed editors and translators.

    These are just two examples of what MRA is doing, but they show what any chapter or affiliate can do to get involved and make a global impact. Here are some starting points that can help your organization:

    • Form an International Projects Committee to explore and promote international literacy projects.
    • List the assets (not just financial) of your organization. Do you have members who are teacher educators, are EL teachers fluent in other languages, have experience teaching abroad, have emigrated from or who have connections to other countries?
    • Attend conferences and look for presentations that focus on international literacy initiatives.
    • Connect on social media to learn about new projects and initiatives. Follow @ILAToday on Twitter and also search for ideas with #InternationalLiteracy or #WorldLiteracy.

    Possibilities abound to promote literacy worldwide. By connecting with people in your local literacy organization and with people engaged in literacy work around the world, our ability to read, write, and communicate will, as ILA promotes, connect us with people and empower all of us to achieve things we never thought possible.

    Leandra ElionLeandra Elion is the chair of the International Projects Committee for the Massachusetts Reading Association, a 2016 ILA Award of Excellence recipient.

    This article originally appeared in the January/February issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    What Happens When the Coach Needs Coaching

    Turkesshia Moore
     | Jul 12, 2017

    Literacy Professional Coaching“Any questions?” asked a member of our district leadership team at our quarterly meeting. I braved the silence and looks from my colleagues that were meant to hush me, and raised my hand. I stood up and asked, “What path is available for those of us in coordinator and coaching positions?”

    She did not have an answer.

    Literacy coaches, reading specialists, and literacy coordinators all have an important place in U.S. schools. ILA’s research brief, “The Multiple Roles of School-Based Specialized Literacy Professionals,” coined a new term to represent all of these roles: the specialized literacy professional. While ILA specifically refers to school-based professionals, district-level literacy professionals also provide a wealth of knowledge to districts, schools, teachers, and students. Because my experience has been at the school and district level, I know that these professionals are not always able to increase their content knowledge unless they pursue learning experiences on their own.

    The literacy professional for a school (or school district) is often the first person sought out for advice, strategies, data review, or observation. In order to provide effective coaching and assistance, these literacy professionals need to continue to develop their own skillsets and stay abreast of the latest literacy research. If the school or the district is not providing professional development opportunities, literacy professionals must find them independently. This can be time consuming and overwhelming if you do not know what to look for.

    Literacy professionals should first complete a self-assessment to determine their areas of strength and weakness. The Literacy Clearinghouse provides an easy-to-score self-assessment for elementary literacy professionals that would be a great starting point. Meeting with other literacy professionals in the area is another way to expand your skillset; you can each present on your most proficient areas (based on self-assessment results) and learn from one another.

    To be a successful literacy professional, you have to continue to evolve and grow, just as we expect of teachers and students. Seek this evolution and growth on your own, if necessary. Children are depending on it.

    Turkesshia MooreTurkesshia Moore is a literacy specialist with Wilson Language Training. She most recently served as a K-5 literacy coordinator in Greensboro, NC. She is currently pursuing her Ed.S. Degree in Educational Leadership. Her interests include the relationship between parental involvement and student achievement, providing adequate funding and effective instruction in rural communities, and the effect of generational dispositions of education on current student achievement.

    Turkesshia Moore will present a session titled “What Happens When the Coach Needs Coaching” at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17. For more information, download the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits app or visit ilaconference.org/app.
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    Add African American Dads to your Literacy Programs and Watch Magic Happen

    Rachel Slaughter
     | Jul 12, 2017

    African American DadsA boy’s father is his first hero. Not only does the son look up to his father as his role model, but he also looks to his father for guidance. A child watches his father’s every move. He is watching when the father is aware. He is watching when the father is not aware. Sons imitate their fathers far more often than fathers wish to admit.

    For children, actions speak louder than words. In schools where African American boys may show little to no interest in reading, imitation can be a positive force in their reading success.

    Research shows that a boy who has a father as a reading role model during his early literacy years is more likely to develop the behaviors of a literate person. This fact creates a powerful charge for a father as a reading role model. Although a father who promotes reading can change his son’s entire future, some boys lack father figures in their homes. School administrators and literacy leaders can still reap the benefits of black male reading role models by adding African American dads to their literacy programs at schools. School administrators and literacy leaders can celebrate the idea that black male students can identify with other black males who are willing to serve as reading role models.

    Below are three simple ideas to get started:

    • Promote the idea of community. In the book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau), Coates explores the "beautiful burden" an African American father has in educating his son. This beautiful burden is one the entire male community can shoulder. Reach out to the dads in your community to encourage their involvement in literacy programs.
    • Invite African American dads to share their stories. A father who didn’t like reading as a young person may still show a reluctance for reading as an adult. Invite fathers to the classroom to tell stories and share experiences. In my work as a literacy leader, I was able to find male relatives of a former Harlem Globetrotter, a Tuskegee Airman, and a Buffalo Soldier. These men shared stories that were passed down to them by these great men in history. As the literacy leader, I found books that dovetailed these experiences and ask the guests to read them to the class as side dishes to their stories.
    • Promote literacy through short pieces. Poetry is a fun form of expression. Hold a poetry slam night and promote the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen. And don’t overlook our contemporaries like Tupac Shakur and Will Smith. Men tend to be attracted to short literary pieces that pack big punches.

    You can access the content you need for themed literacy programs on sites such as The Poetry Foundation, Poem Hunter, and All Poetry. In order to find the men in your community who wish to get involved in your literacy program, distribute a survey. Celebrate the volunteers by promoting them on your literacy website. It doesn't hurt to offer food, either! 

    With a little effort, a literacy leader can fill the literacy program with dads who are eager and willing to share their stories. 

    Rachel SlaughterRachel Slaughter is a doctoral candidate specializing in literacy education at Widener University in Pennsylvania. Her research interest centers on promoting reading in African American males with the help of African American males as reading role models.

    Rachel Slaughter will present a session titled “Add African American Dads to your Literacy Programs and Watch Magic Happen” at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17. For more information, download the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits app or visit ilaconference.org/app.

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    Building the Capacity to Engage All Families

    Sherri Wilson
     | Jul 11, 2017

    Family EngagementWe have 50 years of research that proves family engagement is an important strategy to improve student outcomes—so why is it still so hard to achieve? Educators, just like families, don’t get an instruction manual on how to build effective home–school partnerships. That’s why it is so important that schools and districts spend time building the capacity of all the key stakeholders to work together in meaningful ways to improve student achievement.

    Building the capacity of families and teachers to work together begins by planning purposeful family engagement events that provide families with literacy strategies they can use at home to support their children’s learning. Those events must contain five essential elements that help families and educators develop the capabilities, connections, cognition, and confidence to work as partners to improve student learning.

    • Family engagement events or activities must contain a relationship component. Trusting, respectful relationships are the foundation of true partnerships.
    • Every training event or activity should leverage the strengths of families. They should be partners in both the planning and the implementation of every event and all of the events should be differentiated to meet the individual needs of families.
    • All of the events and activities should be designed to support student learning. Providing families with new strategies they can use at home to support what students learn in the classroom is one of the best ways to link families to their children’s learning.
    • Every event should include opportunities to work in groups. The best family engagement events provide many opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and dialogue.
    • Finally, every family engagement event should provide opportunities for practice and feedback using a variety of strategies. Families who feel more confident using new strategies are much more likely to continue using them at home, and confidence increases with practice.

    Family engagement increases student achievement, but it doesn’t happen overnight and there is no single strategy that will work for every family or every school. Taking the time to build the capacity of both families and school staff to build effective partnerships is the only way to move from random acts of family engagement to truly engaging all stakeholders.

    Sherri WilsonSherri Wilson has worked in the field of family engagement at the local, state, and federal level for more than 20 years and is a founding board member of the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement. She is currently the director of Consultative Services at Scholastic.

    Sherri Wilson will present a workshop titled “Building Capacity to Engage All Families” at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17.

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