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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    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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    Update From Zambia

    By Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman
     | Mar 31, 2020

    We received this letter from Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman, the chair of ChildFund Zambia and the Literacy Association of Zambia, in which she details the efforts made by her organizations and the government of Zambia in promoting literacy education in the midst of managing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We were inspired by these efforts and wanted to share them with our community.

    Greetings. I wish to give you an update on COVID-19 in Zambia.

    The Zambian government confirmed the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country on March 18, 2020, with two cases. The number increased to three on March 22 and escalated to 12 as of March 25. Eleven of the 12 cases concern returning Zambians who had traveled to affected countries while one person was infected in-country.

    Additionally, the Zambian government declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 17. Thereafter, all schools, colleges, and universities were closed as of March 20 until further notice.

    The government also limited the hours of church services to one with smaller groups of congregants. All bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms, and casinos have been closed. The government has also banned large gatherings such as workshops, weddings, and funerals or any event that may pull a crowd above 50 people. Restaurants are operating on take-away and delivery basis.

    As the number of cases increased to 12, the president also announced other measures of preventing the spread of the disease, which included the closure of the three international airports for 14 days.

    The Literacy Association of Zambia is working with ChildFund International and other partners in sensitizing children and their families and caregivers on the preventative measures announced by the government regarding COVID-19. These messages on prevention and hygienic practices were developed by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and have been translated into six local languages.

    The government is also using between 119 and 148 radio stations in the country and other media institutions to disseminate information on COVID-19 info. ChildFund, which is currently housing the Literacy Association of Zambia, is financially supporting the printing of materials and dissemination of information to ensure that it reaches every enrolled household.

    This is being done in conjunction with the Zambia News and Information Services, a government media institution and the district Health Management teams. Messages are being transmitted in the local languages using a public address system regarding the prevention, symptoms, response, and numbers to call in case one presents with the symptoms of COVID-19.

    In terms of literacy, it will be a challenge, especially for the children and teachers in rural areas where they have limited connectivity. In most cases, the children in rural areas come from economically challenged households and may not have any access to digital devices.

    For the children who have access to devices and the families and caregivers who may have computers and laptops, we are trying to share as many materials and resources as possible: We have received electronic resources from the IDC chair, the International Literacy Association, and the education department at our ChildFund. Positive feedback has come from families who are appreciating the initiative.  

    The Ministry of General Education also gave a directive to all schools to give enough work to the learners during this period of closure. Schools were given four days to do so before they were officially closed. 

    There is also a discussion for the Ministry of General Education, through the Department of Open and Distance Education, to work on supporting the children to continue learning during this COVID-19 closedown of schools. They are working on two systems to support the learners: primary schools (grades 1–7) will be supported through educational radio programs, and secondary schools will be supported through the National E-Learning portal, which is being launched as soon as everything is in place.

    Through this strategy, the Ministry of General Education will partner with a national mobile and internet service provider with the hope that, once it is done, learners will be able to access online educational materials and communicate with their teachers. Once this is concluded, the Literacy Association of Zambia will procure radios for the children who are in our areas of operation and where the Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools training were conducted.

    We are looking forward to learning more about how we can help the learners during this period as we are not sure about how long schools will remain closed. 

    We would like to thank Edith for this update and to invite any members, chapters, or international affiliates to send us updates about the efforts being made by educators, schools, districts, or even larger government bodies.

    Stay connected. Share your successes. We’re all in this together.

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    #ILAchat: How Early Childhood Writing Instruction Can Help Improve Literacy

     | Nov 12, 2019

    Thousands of educators and researchers converged on New Orleans, LA, last month for the ILA 2019 Conference. Interactive panels, casual conversations, and thought-provoking sessions led to new themes emerging from the conference that sparked fresh ideas. 
    NovemberILAChat _Graphics

    For our next #ILAchat, we will be discussing a theme that continues to generate

    Our special guests include conversation: how early childhood writing instruction can help improve literacy. Join us on Thursday, November 14, at 8 p.m. ET to chat with experts about how early writing instruction and practice impacts the future of literacy. 

    • Sonia Cabell, an assistant professor in the College of Education and the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University. Cabell previously worked as a second-grade teacher and literacy coach. Her research focuses on early language and literacy intervention, with a particular interest in preventing reading difficulties among children living in poverty. Cabell has authored more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals, numerous publications for practitioners including articles on the topic of early writing, the book Emergent Literacy: Lessons for Success (Plural Publishing), a multitiered preschool language and literacy curriculum with classroom and home components, and a kindergarten writing curriculum. She currently serves as associate editor for the scholarly journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly. Cabell has served as principal investigator or coprincipal investigator on grant projects totaling approximately $6 million. She recently gave a TEDx Talk, “Writing Into Literacy,” on fostering early writing development in preschool.
    • Jennifer Albro, an ELA lecturer at Johns Hopkins School of Education and Lead Clinical Faculty for Literacy in the Urban Teachers DC program. She earned a PhD in literacy education from the University of Maryland and is a former reading interventionist for upper elementary grades and classroom teacher for early elementary grades. In her current position, she has the opportunity to work with colleagues who develop and prepare teachers in Washington, DC, to make changes starting in the classroom through rigorous coursework and supportive coaching. In collaboration with her former doctoral advisor, Jennifer D. Turner, she worked on a research project with novice teachers in the Urban Teachers program and published findings from their summer 2017 project. (Albro, J. & Turner, J.D. [2019]. Six key principles: Bridging students’ career dreams and literacy standards. The Reading Teacher, 73(2), 161–)

    Follow #ILAchat and @ILAToday at 8 p.m. ET this Thursday, November 14, to join the conversation with Cabell, Albro, and ILA as we discuss early writing instructing and connecting research and practice.


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    #ILAchat: Making the Most of Networking Events

    By ILA Staff
     | Oct 01, 2019

    OctILAChat _GraphicsWith the ILA 2019 Conference quickly approaching, we’re reminded of the numerous opportunities to connect with our literacy education peers. From the Welcome to ILA 2019 Event to Literacy Night at Mardi Gras World, attendees will have ample opportunity to tell stories, discuss literacy topics, share ideas, and make lasting connections and friendships.

    To gear up for the conference, we will be discussing how to effectively network with colleagues and build your personal learning network (PLN) during our next #ILAchat on Thursday, October 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Making the Most of Networking Events. 

    Our special guests for this Thursday’s chat are three experts who will be at ILA 2019:

    • Danny Brassell, a professional speaker, author, and professor at California State University who has taught students ranging from preschoolers to rocket scientists. Using humor, music, and games in his highly acclaimed presentations, Brassell has motivated teachers around the world to create their own reading programs that nurture lifelong reading. Brassell is presenting at #ILA19 on instructional comprehension strategies and vocabulary strategies for all students.
    • Kia Brown-Dudley, an ILA Board member who serves as the director of Literacy and Development for The Education Partners, the global consultancy division of GEMS Education. Brown-Dudley partners with educators and leading organizations to create and deliver transformational curricula, rigorous instruction, and professional learning opportunities to improve student outcomes through deeper learning experiences.
    • Stephanie Affinito, a literacy teacher educator in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. She has a deep love of literacy coaching and supporting teachers’ learning through technology. Affinito creates spaces for authentic teacher learning that build expertise, spark professional curiosity, and foster intentional reflection to reimagine teaching and learning for students. Affinito is presenting at #ILA19 on using Twitter in teacher education and boosting teachers’ reading and writing identities.

    Follow #ILAchat and @ILAToday at 8 p.m. ET this Thursday, October 3, to join the conversation with Brassell, Brown-Dudley, Affinito, and ILA as we discuss building your personal learning network, preparing for conference events, and the importance of in-person networking in the age of virtual PLNs.

    Visit our conference website for more information about ILA 2019.

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    Sharing Successes in the Keystone State: Inspiring Literacy Initiatives Across Pennsylvania

    By Aileen Hower
     | Jul 11, 2019

    The Keystone State Literacy Association (KSLA), the Pennsylvania affiliate of
    the International Literacy Association (ILA), is celebrating 50 years of literacy
    leadership across our state this year. At our fall statewide leadership meeting, we
    took the time to share about the wide variety of chapter projects and initiatives
    currently being implemented. There was a great deal of positive energy around
    widespread sharing of ideas.

    After a gallery walk, chapters were able to elaborate on some of the most
    innovative ideas. Chapter leaders enjoyed hearing about similar and new ideas
    for how to serve our members and communities. It was an awe-inspiring time of
    collaboration and connection.

    A few commonalities emerged from the ideas shared. Most ideas fell into the
    following categories: professional learning, advocacy, and engaging with families
    and communities.

    Professional learning

    • Throughout the state, KSLA chapters hold "Teachers as Readers" events to
      talk about and promote the reading of current children's, middle grade, and
      young adult books. Many councils invite the coordinators of the Keystone to
      Reading Book Awards to present on the current books that students can read
      and vote for. The Keystone to Reading Book Awards is a yearly recognition
      of a current picture, poetry, or chapter book, awarded annually at our state
      conference. The awards are chosen entirely by Pennsylvania students.
    • Across the state, especially in chapters such as Central Western, online and
      in-person professional book clubs are being held with members, other local
      teachers, and teachers from other parts of the state.
    • At times, such as with the Brandywine Valley Forge and Delaware Valley
      chapters, miniconferences are held to engage with teachers in specific areas
      and at times outside of our annual conference. This year, topics include
      "Building Community With Social Justice Poetry," "How to Talk About Race
      in Your Classroom," and "Raising Social Awareness Through Conversations
      and Mentor Texts."

    • A few chapters, such as Franklin County, share literacy information and
      establish partnerships with local doctors' offices, as well as provide books to
      children during wellness checks.
    • Franklin County was also recognized by Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of education for their work in collaborating with the local intermediate unit to service students who attend a migrant education summer program in their area.
    • We continue to host department of education representatives at our annual conference as well as invite a “standing” member, who focuses her work on language arts, to attend our biannual leadership/statewide meetings.
    • Various chapter leaders attend department of education meetings to share the latest research about literacy with various divisions and statewide initiatives.
    Engaging with families and communities

    • Our Lancaster-Lebanon chapter gives their Celebrate Literacy Award to local literacy initiatives such as "Police, Read to Me."
    • Susquehanna Valley holds “Read to Me Please” summer reading programs for preschool students at a local playground.
    • Many of our chapters participate in laundromat library projects. Books are collected throughout the year at chapter events and baskets are placed in local laundromats so children have something to read while their family is there. In some chapters, books are also donated to women’s shelters or in places where children wait while their parents attend a court hearing.
    • A number of chapters, such as Schuylkill, have established Story Walks through local parks.
    • Across the state, chapters are partnering with other community organizations such as Kiwanis, Salvation Army, the United Way, and local libraries.
    The ideas shared at our meeting were as diverse and unique as each of our local chapters. Most recently, chapters have been holding casual get-togethers for networking and have even been offering painting, massage, and relaxing coloring events to boost teacher morale.

    Those chapters that serve regions that are large in square footage work to host regional or online events. Chapters that represent more diverse populations or urban centers stay committed to serving those communities, ensuring children receive books and families and caregivers learn helpful ideas for promoting literacy in the home. Especially in a time when teachers find attending large conferences difficult, but still desire to keep their literacy teaching skills sharp, all chapters serve their members by hosting authors and professional development speakers, and studying the latest in literacy research.

    We are so proud of all of our members and thankful for our local leaders for their tireless love of and commitment to promoting literacy throughout a lifetime.

    Aileen Hower, an ILA member since 2008, is president of the Keystone State Literacy Association.

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