Update from ILA on COVID-19: We are committed to keeping you informed of all the latest developments, including the impact on the ILA 2020 Conference in Columbus, OH, and how ILA is helping educators during this period. Let us know what support you need and stay engaged using these free resources.

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Making a Case for Reading Joy
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Making a Case for Reading Joy
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    ILA Postpones Webinar

    By ILA STAFF
     | May 31, 2020

    Donalyn Miller webinar postponedThe International Literacy Association (ILA) will postpone tonight’s scheduled webinar amidst nationwide protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd.

    The webinar, “Making the Case for Reading Joy,” was to be led by Donalyn Miller. It will be rescheduled for a later date.

    Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis, MN, was killed at the hands of Dereck Chauvin, a white police officer who had Floyd’s neck pinned under his knee. Video of the incident, captured by a bystander, showed Floyd pleading for his life, saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”

    Violent protests erupted across the United States, sparking solidarity protests all over the world.

    “What happened to Mr. Floyd is a tragedy,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Now is not the time to discuss the joy we can find in books, but instead to reflect on how we can promote positive change.”

    “Alongside ILA, I stand in support of the many school communities who are suffering right now and the need to share resources that directly address urgent needs,” says Miller. “Our children cannot experience reading joy without equitable literacy opportunities.”

    ILA is in the process of rescheduling the event and will announce the new date and time next week.

    “We know that reading has the power to heal,” Post said. “But there’s no way to begin healing when the trauma is this fresh.”


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    ILA Elects New Vice President and Members-at-Large to Board of Directors

    By ILA Staff
     | May 21, 2020

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) today announced the results of the ILA 2020 Board Election.

    Robert TierneyRob Tierney, dean emeritus and professor, University of British Columbia, Canada, honorary professor, University of Sydney, Australia, and distinguished scholar, Beijing Normal University, China, was elected vice president. His term on the ILA Board of Directors will begin July 1, 2020. He will then assume the presidency of the Board on July 1, 2021.

    Tierney has held professorships in Australia, the United States, and Canada and has published numerous books and scholarly articles focused on literacy education, teacher development, cross-national educational research, educational assessment, and equity. His recent projects include research on global epistemologies and cross-cultural research, digital literacy and meaning making, the nature of educational scholarship across countries, teacher development projects in China, and indigenous developments in Australia.

    Tierney has a long history of involvement with ILA. He has served as coeditor of ILA’s Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ) journal, as an editorial review board member for RRQ, and as a chair/member of several ILA committees. In 2003, he received the William S. Gray Citation of Merit, ILA’s highest honor for contributions to the field.

    He has also served as president of the Literacy Research Association and as a consultant for Children’s Television Workshop, Apple Computer, and UNESCO. He looks forward to bringing his expertise and global perspective to the Board and to helping guide the future of ILA.

    “My goal is to help ILA, its affiliates, my colleagues, and interested others to make positive and discerning contributions that are both transformative and sustainable,” Tierney said. “ILA has been and should be an agent for change and an ally to educators and communities seeking to make a difference locally and globally with initiatives that are visionary and forward thinking as well as credible, ethical, critical, creative, and beneficial. I see literacies as being at the epicenter of community development and societal advances that have been and will be key to our futures. I am excited by the various challenges and by what could be.”

    Three new Board members-at-large were also elected for the 2020–2023 term:

    Danielle V. DennisDanielle V. Dennis, a professor of literacy teacher education and director of the University of Rhode Island School of Education. Dennis served from 2014 to 2016 as a member of the ILA Literacy Education Reform Task Force that developed the Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform white paper. Since 2015, she has served as an editorial board member for ILA’s The Reading Teacher journal. Dennis served as a board member of the Florida Literacy Association and is currently chair of the Literacy Research Association’s Policy and Legislative Committee. As a literacy teacher educator, Dennis’s focus is on building strong school–university partnerships. Her research studies preservice and inservice teacher knowledge development through literacy coaching and curriculum development.

    Annette M. KiberuAnnette M. Kiberu,a librarian at GEMS Cambridge International School in Kampala, Uganda. Kiberu is the former president of the Reading Association of Uganda, a role in which she oversaw a primary literacy festival, six schools’ introduction of Book Week, three school librarians’ workshops, four national literacy conferences, and the 11th Pan African Literacy for All Conference. She is a board member for Lubiri Nabagereka and KinderKare schools. Kiberu chairs the International Development Committee for Africa, which is an affiliate of ILA. Other committees include the Uganda Multilingual Education Network, Uganda Children’s Writers and Illustrators Association, Peace Corps Education Committee Uganda, and Council of International Schools Library Committee. In 2018, she received the World Literacy Council Award for significant contributions to literacy by an individual.

    Helen J. PerkinsJ. Helen Perkins, a professor of literacy at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. Perkins has served on several ILA committees. Most notably, she served as coeditor of The Reading Teacher and as a lead writer for the Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017. In addition, she is currently chair of the Advocacy/Legislative Committee and conference diversity advisor for the Literacy Association of Tennessee. She is also the advisor to the University of Memphis Student Chapter of the Literacy Association of Tennessee. Her research focuses on urban literacy.

    Tierney, Dennis, Kiberu, and Perkins were elected by ILA’s membership during the ILA 2020 Board Election, which was conducted online between March 30, 2020, and May 11, 2020. The new vice president and members-at-large will begin their terms on July 1, 2020.

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    International Literacy Association Cancels 2020 Conference Amid COVID-19 and Its Impact on Education

    By ILA Staff
     | May 13, 2020

    ILA2020LitDaily_680x350The International Literacy Association (ILA) announced today the cancellation of the ILA 2020 Conference, scheduled to take place Oct. 15–18 in Columbus, OH.

    “Although this is a difficult announcement, it was not a hard decision to make because we knew it was the right decision,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “The safety and health of our attendees, as well as everyone who helps shape the event, from speakers and sponsors to exhibitors and staff, is of the utmost importance.”

    Before the detrimental effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the ILA 2020 Conference was expected to draw some 4,000 literacy professionals and educators from around the world. However, with schools and universities closed and travel restrictions in place, continuing to plan for an education conference “was not the right move for a professional development organization at this time,” Post said.

    Post cited continuing challenges around budgets as another factor in the decision, as well as the critical task of students’ academic recovery following what’s been dubbed “the COVID slide.”

    “Our members and all those who traditionally attend our conference need our support but not in the form of an in-person conference they likely wouldn’t be able to attend,” Post said.

    Instead, ILA is focused on expanding its virtual learning options. Last month, ILA offered a free replay of six top sessions from the ILA 2019 Conference and held its first ILA Edcamp Online, becoming one of the first organizations to bring the popular, participant-driven “unconference” into a digital space.

    The organization also launched on May 3 ILA at Home, a new series of webinars, beginning with Timothy Shanahan. The event attracted more than 1,400 registrants in 10 days. The second in the series, featuring Donalyn Miller, takes place May 31.

    At the center of this slate of digital events is a new, progressive model of professional development ILA will announce next month.

    “Nothing can compare to the experience of actually being at a face-to-face ILA conference,” Post said. “So rather than try to replicate it in a virtual space, we felt it made more sense to design something meant to be virtual from the start—something that maximizes the benefits of delivering PD on a digital platform.”

    For more information, visit the Digital Events page of the ILA website.

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    ILA’s Road Ahead

    By Marcie Craig Post
     | May 13, 2020

    Important AnnouncementThis column will be appearing in the May/June issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine, set to publish on Friday. Please visit the ILA 2020 Conference site for more information.

    We’re living in an unprecedented rate of change with the world at a standstill.

    What you knew to be true before you went to bed on Monday is likely to have shifted by the time you woke up on Tuesday—or was it Wednesday? For those of us confined to our homes due to shelter-in-place orders or self-imposed isolation, the days seem to blend into one another. (If it wasn’t for Outlook reminding me of conference calls and Zoom meetings, I’m not sure I’d automatically remember which day it was either. One of those round-robin social media posts asked what movie best describes how you’re feeling right now. My response? Groundhog Day.)

    Education as we know it has been upended. School closures that were initially thought to be short term have been extended indefinitely. Some school systems have already taken the action to close through the rest of the school year. As of mid-April, UNESCO was reporting that more than 1.5 billion learners—that’s 91.3% of all enrolled students across 191 countries—have been impacted. Some universities are preparing for the possibility of campuses remaining closed long term and are expecting at minimum a 15% drop in registration for fall 2020.

    Long term, there is no way to predict how this global pandemic will impact the way we teach and the way students learn.

    Short term, there’s urgency to address some very specific challenges around equity and access. These areas of weakness “exposed” by the coronavirus aren’t novel to educators. In our 2020 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, released in January, we shared that both ranked in the top five most critical issues in literacy education. We also found that the top professional development need of survey respondents was on using digital resources to support literacy instruction.

    What is new is the urgency we’re seeing to shore up those weaknesses. And the big question on everyone’s mind is how.

    At ILA, we’re focusing on what we can do to meet your needs—not only the ones you have today but also the ones you’ll have in the future during the post-COVID-19 recovery phase. Here are some of the steps we’ve taken so far:

    • We launched the ILA 2019 Replay. For the months of April and May, we are offering open access to six of the top sessions livestreamed from last year’s conference.
    • We held the first ILA Edcamp Online. Registration for the inaugural event, held on April 7, sold out within hours of going live. Look for more of these live, participant-driven events in the future.
    • We accelerated the timeline on our digital events program. This includes interactive webinars with literacy leaders such as Timothy Shanahan (May 3) and Donalyn Miller (May 31). Each are free for members and available to nonmembers for $45.

    Sensing a trend?

    Streaming recorded sessions and delivering live webinars are standard practices for a professional organization. Adding online peer-to-peer learning and virtual networking opportunities help round out the mix.

    And in the coming months, you’ll see more and more organizations either launching or augmenting collections like these. The value of high-quality content that’s accessible with a device and a reliable Wi-Fi connection has never been greater.

    But for us, the work doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s only just beginning. Each challenge we’ve encountered has given rise to a new way of thinking about what we do and how we do it.

    This magazine, for example. We announced in April the decision to discontinue the print version of Literacy Today. There are several reasons for this, but one of the driving factors is that a number of members receive their subscriptions at their schools or universities—buildings they won’t be entering again for an indeterminate amount of time.

    Innovation was another factor. For the past few issues, we’ve been testing features for the digital version, such as adding exclusive online content and embedding links to videos. We asked ourselves what we could do if we weren’t limited by print. How could we increase value to members by shifting our efforts in this other direction? The possibilities excited us.

    Around the time we were having discussions, we received word from Wiley, the publishing company that prints and distributes our journals, that they would be shifting to a digital-only format until COVID-related restrictions eased and operations could resume as normal. Although this didn’t directly influence our decision about Literacy Today, it did underscore for us that there were definite advantages to a digital publication that didn’t depend on print presses and postal service.

    We applied this kind of thinking to other areas as well, such as our conference, set to take place from October 15–18 in Columbus, OH. From the beginning, when early reports of this devastating virus surfaced, our staff has been in close contact with key officials from the city of Columbus, the Ohio Department of Education, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We have been tracking guidelines and recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization. Even though the event wasn’t scheduled until October, we knew from the start we did not want to put on a conference that wasn’t safe for our attendees, exhibitors, and staff.

    Safety has been a top concern of ours from the start. On March 1, ILA suspended travel for staff and members of the Board of Directors. Not long after, we went to a 100% remote work environment. We also increased the flexibility of our workday to ease the burden on families impacted by sudden and wholly unexpected closures of schools and childcare facilities.

    On March 23, Delaware Governor John Carney issued a shelter-in-home order for the state (where our headquarters is located) to remain in effect until May 15. At the time, it was one of the more conservative measures taken. Carney told reporters, “I don’t want Delaware to be the example of what not to do in this crisis.”

    We can say the same for ILA: We do not want to be an example of what not to do. And so in the end, we made the heartbreaking but necessary decision to cancel this year’s conference.

    Many organizations facing similar scenarios have opted to relocate their in-person events to virtual platforms or create hybrid conferences with both face-to-face and digital components. We considered those options but ultimately decided to go in a different direction.

    At this time, we are working on a new model for professional learning—one that allows us to be incredibly responsive to what is going on in your classrooms, your schools, your communities, and the world at large.

    It takes some of the best of what an ILA conference traditionally offers and combines it with new, progressive formats that provide a deep, personalized learning experience. In addition, we’ll be launching new members-only benefits in the coming months, including digital resources informed by responses received from the 2020 What’s Hot in Literacy survey.

    Right now, when everything is or feels at least a little new, we at ILA are embracing the opportunity to turn to a blank page. What we were is no longer as important as who we can, should, and will be.

    In the eight years since I became the executive director at ILA, I don’t know that I have ever felt so much possibility and promise. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you joins us in forging this new path and, in the process, help us be better in service to you and our profession.

    Marcie Craig Post is the executive director of the International Literacy Association.

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    ILA Appreciates Teachers

    By Wesley Ford
     | May 07, 2020

    Student making heart shapeI’ve worked at the International Literacy Association (ILA) for many a year now, and during that time, I’ve worked with educators of all ilk, from researchers to principals, librarians to preservice teachers. I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of educators across various ILA events and annual conferences. Amazing and dedicated professionals who want nothing but the best for learners all of ages. The ingenuity and tenacity of educators never ceases to amaze me, and nothing has brought that to the forefront more than the previous months as schools and teaching programs were forced to shift—at an unreasonable speed no less—to a new format.

    As strange and trying as these times are, I have nothing but confidence in the future of schools and education because I know from firsthand experience that educators rise to any challenge and do what’s right for students.

    From my colleagues

    This being Teacher Appreciation Week, we at ILA thought it an appropriate time to express our appreciation for all of you, and so here are few shout-outs and well wishes I collected from my colleagues.

    “A special education teacher doing her absolute best”

    “Big shout-out to my sister—a special education teacher doing her absolute best to help her students remotely while assisting her older daughter with her remote schooling, AND chasing a 4-year-old around!”

    —Daralene Irwin, Front-end Web Developer + Content Manager 

    “This teacher is a real inspiration”

    “I have nothing but respect and blessings for the third-grade teacher my grandson is lucky to have.  Mr. Paul Sedacca from McVey Elementary School here in Newark, DE, has gone above and beyond.  He is doing 5-days-a-week online learning for 18 third graders for two hours.  This week, he is starting small-group learning for 3–4 students at a time, each day, right before regular online classes start.  He has even asked the parents if they feel their child needs a one-on-one at any time.  My grandson has real potential for doing good work and his teacher encourages him to excel even more.  This teacher is a real inspiration, and the school and students are very fortunate to have such a dedicated teacher.”

    —Peggy DiMaio, Registration & Housing Manager 

    (To which I will add: ILA has a close professional relationship with McVey Elementary through the McVey/Delaware project, and I have been to visit the school a few times over the years [a friend of mine from high school works there!] and all the teachers are just amazing. As is David Wilkie, McVey’s principal, who was recognized with the Corwin Literacy Leader award in 2017 for his work in building a culture of literacy in his school.. So there’s my shout-out to everyone over at McVey; I hope you are all doing well! Now back to everyone else.)

    “Helps them get the wiggles out by dancing together”

     “I would be happy to give a shout-out to [my son] Landon’s teacher, Mrs. Debbie Ortiz, at Christ the Teacher Catholic School in Newark, DE. Although remote learning has taken quite a lot of getting used to for many parents, I am so thankful for the video lessons, personalized student shout-outs, requests for pictures, and read-aloud videos that are keeping Landon and the other first graders engaged during these challenging times. Mrs. Ortiz has the class gather each Thursday and pray as a class and share experiences from their week, and helps them to get the wiggles out by dancing together. She is even taking them on a virtual field trip to Washington, DC, this Friday.

    Even though this time is very stressful for parents, it is also taking a toll on the students. Landon is looking forward to rejoining his classmates for a new school year (hopefully in September).”

    Angela Rivell, Program Manager

    “Urged and prodded me to write”

    “Let me tell you about my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Tomlinson, who urged and prodded me to write. He took an assignment I did for him and submitted it to Reader’s Digest without my knowing. The piece won second place in a national competition and I was forever convinced that maybe, just maybe, I could write. “ —Marcie Craig Post, Executive Director 

    “Always checking in…and cheering him from afar”

    “My 4-year-old son has been at an early childhood center since he was 12 weeks old. As a working mother, I am very conscious of the fact that, Monday through Friday, he spends more waking hours at his school than he does at home with his dad and me. We are enormously grateful for the teachers he’s been lucky enough to have. Teachers who really know him and know how to bring out the best in him. Teachers who nurture his interests, no matter how quirky—the joy on my child’s face when Ms. Erica gave him a bucket full of keys and let him try them in every lock in the classroom!—and who nurture his social-emotional development. Teachers who encourage his love of reading and art and science. It’s been almost two months since his school closed due to our state’s stay-at-home order, but Ms. Kelly is always checking in, sending links to activities she knows he’ll enjoy, and cheering him from afar. It’s a sad fact that, in this country, early childhood educators are undervalued. But to us, they are family, and we love and miss them every single day.” —Lara Deloza, Director of Brand Content and Communications

    My own story

    And now it’s my turn, I suppose. I’ve had so many great teachers during the years, but one forever stands out in my memory. I was in small grade school, and we had two reading groups: the normal group and the advanced group. I was the only student in both groups. I could understand the concepts of the stories if they were read to me, but I struggled with reading. Word sounds didn’t come naturally to me, and I still have issues reading aloud text. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Dapkis, recognized my issues and worked with my parents to get me additional tutoring outside of school.

    Without that extra help, I undoubtedly would have fallen further behind in school (so also a big thank you to my parents). I went from barely being able to read Snoopy comics to devouring chapter books within a couple years. And from there, the reader, writer, and editor working at ILA.

    To all the teachers out there, words cannot express the positive effect you have on your students. Thank you. A million times, thank you!

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