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    Young Authors' Studio: Writing and Learning Together in Arizona

    By Wendy R. Williams and Stephanie F. Reid
     | Feb 05, 2019

    Picture this: a Saturday morning, the room buzzing with conversation and movement. The youth writers sitting at the Comics/Graphic Novels table laugh and nudge each other, pointing out details in their images and words. The university student who has organized this breakout session sits nearby, guiding and encouraging them.

    Assorted graphic novels and comics, how-to books, art supplies, and templates are within easy reach. Amid the hum, one writer’s attention is fastened on a How to Draw Superheroes book. He turns some pages quickly and pauses on others. When he is ready to stop reading, he claims a big box of crayons and begins his own Superman and Doctor Octopus story.

    At a time when we are seeing cuts to creative writing and arts education in schools, having spaces such as this one where young people can pursue their love of writing and explore different ways to write is crucial.

    This has been the philosophy behind our Young Authors’ Studio (YAS) initiative, a free writing workshop at Arizona State University (ASU) for students in grades 5–12. During the seven-week program, these elementary through high school students write and learn alongside ASU students, who guide them through a range of high-interest activities they design.

    The structure of Young Authors’ Studio

    YAS is held at ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Upper-division ASU students from Wendy Williams’s project-based English course, Mentoring Youth Writers, earn internship credit as they plan, promote, and run the program.

    Williams created YAS in fall 2017 to reach students who like to write in forms that are not always taught in school (e.g., spoken word poetry or songwriting). Her student mentors spent five, four-hour sessions designing the program, which then evolved into a seven-week writing series running from October to December for approximately 18 students. The series, held again in 2018 with 31 students, consisted of six themed workshops and a public performance and writing gallery.

    The mentors also hosted an information session for families. The YAS writing workshops took place from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and mentors were on campus from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to plan, run YAS, and debrief.

    Mentors typically began each workshop by inviting everyone to write in their journals. Afterward, the youth writers attended their choice of two small-group breakout sessions (each mentor offered a different breakout each day). Then the writers met in teams, small communities where they shared and reflected on their writing each week with an assigned mentor.

    This program aims to show young people how fun and varied writing can be. For example, themed workshops have included narrative writing, music and poetry, art and writing, drama, genres, and revision and rehearsal. Small-group breakout sessions have explored novel outlining, songwriting, comics, tableaux, character creation, and many other topics. Breakout sessions encourage youth writers to focus on writing elements and experiment with different types of writing.

    Celebrating youth writing

    The program culminated in a public performance and writing gallery for families and friends. Mentors helped set up the gallery with the writers’ name cards and samples of their work. Sticky notes and pens were available so guests, youth writers, and mentors could leave comments. Then everyone headed into the performance space, where the writers shared pieces they composed.

    This showcase highlighted one of the primary missions of YAS: celebrating youth voices.

    Just as it benefits the student writers, it also benefits the student mentors. Our mentors cultivated a range of real-world skills. They problem-solved with each other, developed and led writing activities, worked with youth, and communicated with parents. Mentors designed marketing materials, promoted the program, and ran the YAS email account and social media. The 2017 cohort also presented their curriculum to English teachers at a local conference.

    Inspiring the next generation

    Adding another layer of purpose to the initiative, YAS is set up as a writing lab that allows researchers to learn more about mentoring and youth authorship. ASU graduate students are encouraged to study an aspect of the program and write for publication. As a bonus to us, study findings will help shape future iterations of our program.

    Moving forward, we expect to watch our YAS initiative continue to grow, and we look forward to bringing more creative writing opportunities to our area students to help shape the next generation of authors and creative thinkers.

    Wendy R. Williams, an ILA member since 2011, is an assistant professor at Arizona State University and the director of Young Authors’ Studio. She recently published Listen to the Poet: Writing, Performance, and Community in Youth Spoken Word Poetry (University of Massachusetts Press).

    Stephanie F. Reid, an ILA member since 2016, is a doctoral student in the Learning, Literacies, and Technologies program at Arizona State University.

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

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    ILA Highlights Benefits of Reading Practice and Volume

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jan 31, 2019

    In an era of technological distractions, instilling a love of reading in students has become increasingly difficult for teachers. The solution, according to a new brief from the International Literacy Association (ILA), is deceptively simple: Give students control over their reading lives through independent reading.

    In Creating Passionate Readers Through Independent Reading, the organization draws on research that demonstrates how independent reading builds student competence, confidence, and joy.

    “We have decades of studies proving the power of independent reading,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “It’s why we advocate for independent reading that is truly independent.”

    Post describes independent reading as an activity driven by student selection and motivation that’s free from assessment and accountability, but not support. ILA’s definition of independent reading includes the important role teachers play in the practice, such as offering suggestions about text selection based on students' self-identified interests, initiating conversations with students about what they’re reading, and facilitating similar discussions among peer groups.

    To heighten reading motivation, ILA recommends that educators not only ensure choice, but also provide texts that reflect topics of interest and stories that are representative of all students in the classroom and beyond. An added benefit? Diverse and inclusive classroom libraries help foster a love of reading.

    Due to increased emphasis on test preparation, assigned reading, and other curricular requirements, many teachers struggle to carve out time for quality independent reading. But, as ILA points out, when independent reading isn’t prioritized or encouraged in the classroom, students miss out on important benefits, such as improved reading stamina, vocabulary, and background knowledge.

    Additionally, teachers lack valuable opportunities to coach, instruct, provide feedback, and assess the effectiveness of independent reading.

    The brief includes a list of takeaways to help educators boost student interest in and engagement with books.

    Access the full text here.

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

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    ILA Releases 2019 30 Under 30 List

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jan 09, 2019

    30u30-2019-report-coverILA is excited to announce the release of its 2019 30 Under 30 list in the January/February issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s bimonthly member magazine. The biennial list recognizes rising leaders in the literacy field—a cohort of young innovators, disruptors, and visionaries creating positive change in the global literacy landscape.

    “The individuals on this list are solving critical issues—issues many of them have faced on their own paths to success,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Their contributions are paving the way to more accessible and equitable literacy learning in their schools, communities, and beyond. It’s an honor to recognize these young leaders whose vision and tenacity are transforming our world.”

    Representing 13 countries, the list of honorees includes educators, school administrators, nonprofit leaders, authors, volunteers, researchers, and social entrepreneurs. The list celebrates changemakers such as:

    • Gerald Dessus, 29, a middle school teacher at Mastery Charter Schools, Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia, who designed and piloted a social justice curriculum that has since been adopted by six other Mastery campuses
    • Freshta Karim, 26, founder of Charmaghz, a mobile library that brings books and learning opportunities to more than 200 children a day in Kabul, Afghanistan
    • Marley Dias, who, at 11 years old, started the viral #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign because she was tired of the lack of black female protagonists in the books she read at school. Now 14, the New Jersey native is a published author who has leveraged her social media platform to foster conversations about activism, social justice, volunteerism, equality, inclusion, and representation.

    ILA’s 2019 30 Under 30 list also includes:

    • Patrick Burke, 27, Lecturer in Language and Literacy Education, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
    • Allister Chang, 28, Executive Director, Libraries Without Borders, Washington, DC, U.S.
    • Mu-Tien Chen, 27, Cofounder, Aestheticell Association, Taipei, Taiwan
    • Katie Duffy, 28, Year 5 Teacher, Mona Vale Public School, Sydney, Australia
    • Elaysel Germán, 27, Literacy Manager, NIA Community Services Network, New York, U.S.
    • Sarah Grant, 29, Head of Partnerships and Programmes, LRTT: Limited Resource Teacher Training, Christchurch, New Zealand
    • Mahbuba Hammad, 29, Literacy Research Director, Center for Languages, Arts, and Societies of the Silk Road, California, U.S.
    • Farhana Hoque, 29, ELA Teacher, Midwood High School, New York, U.S.
    • Alex Lim, 29, Cofounder, MYReaders Resources, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    • Karlos Marshall, 28, President and Cofounder, The Conscious Connect, Ohio, U.S.
    • Yessica Martinez, 25, Poet and Teaching Artist; MFA Student, Cornell University, New York, U.S.
    • Marina Meić, 27, Vice President, Croatian Reading Association Split Branch, Split, Croatia
    • Henry “Cody” Miller, 29, ELA Teacher, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, Florida, U.S.
    • Maria Morfin, 29, Dean, KIPP Sol Academy, California, U.S.
    • Danje Morris, 29, First-Grade Teacher, Indian Valley Elementary School, Alabama, U.S.
    • Nangamso Mtsatse, 27, Doctoral Student, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
    • Jean d’Amour Ndahayo, 29, President, Magirirane Development in Peace, Kigali, Rwanda
    • Hayley Niad, 29, Education Advisor, Cambridge Education, Washington, DC, U.S. and Mozambique
    • Matt Panozzo, 27, Seventh-Grade ELA Teacher, Annunciation Orthodox School, Texas, U.S.
    • Eugene Pringle Jr., 29, Assistant Principal, Odyssey Middle School, Florida, U.S.
    • Daniel Reichard, 29, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School, Virginia, U.S.
    • Jacob Olaoluwa Sule, 28, Founder, iRead To Live Initiative, Abuja, Nigeria
    • Kirsten Musetti Tivaringe, 29, Instructor and Doctoral Student, University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado, U.S.
    • Francis Jim Tuscano, 29, Head EdTech Coach, Xavier School, Manila, Philippines
    • Michelle Valerio, 28, Assistant Principal, Randallstown Elementary School, Maryland, U.S.
    • Nandini Varma, 26, Cofounder, Airplane Poetry Movement, Pune, India
    • Shontoria Walker, 28, Instructional Coach, Empowerment High School, Texas, U.S.

    To view the Literacy Today feature and read more about the honorees’ accomplishments, visit

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    Teacher-Led Read-Alouds, In-School Independent Reading Key to Effective Literacy Instruction

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Dec 19, 2018
    December LLB

    Teacher-led read-alouds and in-school independent reading—the cornerstones of effective literacy instruction—have the power and promise to set students on a path of lifelong reading, according to research highlighted by the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) recent brief, The Power and Promise of Read-Alouds and Independent Reading.

    For many U.S. students, in-school time is their only encoun­ter with books, says ILA. As instructional time is increasingly devoted to content coverage and standardized test prepara­tion, less time is available for in-school reading. As a result, the reading habits of young adults have sharply declined over the past two decades.

    The brief stresses the responsibility of schools and educators to allocate more instructional time and resources to well-stocked classroom libraries and to preparing teachers to engage in ef­fective, interactive read-alouds.

    “Reading time needs to be a priority, not an afterthought,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “When you carve out time for these practices every day, you send the message that you value students’ reading lives and build habits that carry over into their home lives.”

    Research points to a broader application of read-aloud that transcends grade levels, content areas, text genres, and forms, says ILA. Academic benefits include increased vocabulary, listening comprehension, and cognitive development, among others. It also can deliver a more authentic and positive reading experience. In science classrooms, for example, “read-alouds can transform passive reception of content into instruction involving more discourse-centered meaning mak­ing.”

    High-quality independent reading, marked by fre­quency, duration, choice, and authentic response, also delivers academic benefits across the board. Among them: improved background knowledge, comprehension, vocabulary, and improved attitudes toward reading for pleasure.

    The brief ends with recommendations for optimizing the benefits of read-alouds and independent reading.  

    Access the full text here.

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

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    ILA's Children's Rights to Read Pledge Hits 1,000 Signatures

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Dec 13, 2018

    rightstoreadMore than 1,000 individuals and organizations, representing over 50 countries; 30 organizations; 20 schools, districts, and universities; and 175,000 students, have pledged support to the International Literacy Association’s Children’s Rights to Read initiative. The global movement focuses on making sure that every child has access to the education, opportunities, and resources needed to read. 

    Supporters have pledged to enact ILA's Children's Rights to Read—ten fundamental rights ILA asserts that every child deserves. The yearlong campaign will focus on activating educators, policymakers, and literacy partners to join ILA in their efforts to raise awareness of these Rights, with the long-term goal of ensuring every child has access to the education, opportunities, and resources needed to read. 

    “Exceeding 1,000 supporters demonstrates the momentum and unity around our vision of literacy for all,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Now we’re focused on channeling this momentum into action.”

    Organizations that have signed the pledge include Child Smile Liberia, Kids Own Australian Literature Awards Inc., Poetry Ireland, Taiwan Reading Association, American Eagle Institute, DisruptED, and British Virgin Islands Reading Council. Individual supporters span a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, professions, and expertise. More than 50 countries are represented overall.

    “I commend the efforts of ILA for igniting the flame of such a critical movement,” says Stephen G. Peters, superintendent of Laurens County School District 55 and current ILA Board member. “[It] will create multiple pathways for success for millions of children across the world.”

    As part of the ongoing campaign, ILA will be developing and distributing practical resources that educators can use to enact these Rights in their classrooms, schools, and communities. The first, The Case for Children’s Rights to Read, is available now.

    Visit to download the Children’s Rights to Read, available in eight languages, and sign the pledge in support.

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

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