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    ILA Nominates Iran Literacy Project for 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA)

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Oct 12, 2017
    Read With Me

    Yesterday, Iran literacy project Read With Me was announced as a candidate for the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA)—the world's largest children's literature prize, designed to promote interest in children's and young adults' literature.  

    Each year, the award’s jury selects nominating bodies from around the world, all of which must demonstrate “expert knowledge” of children’s and young adult literature. ILA was one of only six U.S. organizations, among 226 total nominating bodies, to nominate a candidate this year.

    As ILA’s nomination committee members began to discuss potential candidates, they looked at previous award winners. How had they used the funding? How many lives had it changed? The committee wanted to support a cause that would have a far-reaching and sustained impact.

    “We felt strongly that a project that could really monetarily use the support in the most impactful way was the one we wanted to support,” said nomination committee member Junko Yokota.

    It didn't take long for Zohreh Ghaeni’s name to come up. Yokota had served alongside Ghaeni on several international award juries, including the International Board for Books of Young People, and had continued to follow her work in promoting children’s books in Iran.

    A lifelong activist, Ghaeni was twice arrested and detained for her political beliefs, journalism, and human rights defense work, which focused on youth education.

    “From the time I was 19, I knew I wanted to work with children in poor villages. I was so worried about the children that I left my university learning to work directly with them. I brought books from Tehran, I read to them, I played with them out in nature,” said Ghaeni, in her personal statement. “That was the first time that any teacher had come to them to offer such an opportunity. But teaching 20–30 children was not enough; I wanted to do more.”

    During her second, eight-year-long term in person, she did not have access to books—an experience that served as a harrowing reminder of the power of words. Once released, she began to research the history of children’s literature as a means of ideological control. Ghaeni realized she may not be able to change the education system that was oppressing young minds, but she could empower the children to help themselves, through literature.

    Her time spent in prison inspired her to found Read With Me with the goal of promoting lifelong reading habits in underserved areas in Iran. Today, the organization leads two-day workshops every three months for teachers, librarians, and volunteers, who learn how to facilitate productive read-aloud and discussion, foster literacy skills, and lead creative activities that support learning.

    Over the past decade, Read With Me has reached more than 7,000 children and young adults across 75 remote villages in Iran, trained more than 500 teachers, distributed 25,000 books and 60,000 learning activities, and established more than 90 Read With Me small libraries.

    Beyond these numbers, Ghaeni said the most important measure of success of Read With Me is the impact on children, teachers, and volunteers involved. Not only have the children developed a love of books, but have shown improved vocabulary, pronunciation, comprehension, concentration, communication, confidence, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

    Yokota said that collaboration is at the core of everything the organization does.

    “Even the name, Read With Me, was very intentional. They don’t read to the children, they read with the children,” she said. “That kind of deep thinking can be found in every aspect of the organization.”

    The committee members also recognized the organization’s emphases on high-quality literature, paired with strong professional development—key tenets of ILA’s mission.

    “It’s an approach that allows teachers to get training in how to use the books with children, how to engage them to use lit in meaningful ways,” said Miriam Martinez, chair of ILA’s nomination committee. “It not only encompasses good literature, but empowers teachers with professional development.”

    If awarded the prize, Ghaeni plans to expand the organization’s operations and continue to help more children and young adults make meaningful changes in their lives.

    The recipient will be announced in Stockholm and Bologna following the jury’s final meeting in March 2018.

    To learn more about Read With Me, visit the organization’s website and YouTube channel.  

    To learn more about the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, visit alma.se/en.

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    In Memory of Phylliss Joy Adams

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 15, 2017

    Phylliss AdamsWith great sadness we announce the passing of Phylliss Joy Adams (1987–88), past president of the International Reading Association (IRA, now the International Literacy Association), the Colorado Council of the International Reading Association (CCIRA), and the Denver local council of IRA. We offer our deepest condolences to her family along with our sincerest gratitude for all that she accomplished.

    Adams dedicated her life to improving literacy instruction.  After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Northwest Missouri State University, and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Denver,  she began a long career of teaching at public schools and universities in the fields of reading and literacy.

    An internationally known speaker and consultant, she presented in over 30 states, as well as for international council in more than 10 countries. Still she found time to author more than 40 books for young readers as well as professional development materials for educators.

    When Adams wasn’t reading, writing, or traveling for work, she was doing so for fun. She and her husband of 65 years, Keith, visited all 50 states and over 100 countries. After retiring she was active in three different book clubs and volunteered as an ambassador at the Denver International Airport for over eight years.

    “She was an extremely hard worker for IRA, for her state association, and for literacy in general,” said past president Jack Cassidy (1982–83).

    Past president Carl Braun (1990–91) served on the Board during Adams’ presidency and remained friends with her since. He described her as an always-prepared, highly organized, fiercely ethical leader and “an open and friendly” person.

    During her tenure, Adams worked hard to raise the visibility of IRA councils, traveling across the U.S. and internationally to help them attract members, survey regional needs, and define their goals. She also promoted the value of children’s literature in the teaching of reading—a progressive approach to instruction at the time.

    “She always preached that whatever the [teaching] method, children’s literature has to be the centerpiece. That was the kind of belief that certainly raised eyebrows in the late 80s,” Braun said.

    Above all, he said she will be remembered as an indefatigable advocate for teachers.

    “Of the many people I’ve known in literacy education, she was one of the most avid advocates. A completely unabashed advocate for teachers everywhere. I think that’s one thing that a lot of people will remember her for, and certainly hundreds of thousands of teachers,” he said.

    In lieu of flowers, it is requested that a donation be made to CCIRA in honor of Phylliss J. Adams. The donations collected will provide scholarships to CCIRA’s annual conference held in February in Denver, CO. Checks should be made out to Cathy Lynsky, CCIRA Treasurer, 161 Quakie Way, Bailey, CO 80421.

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily. 
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    Here’s How You Can Help Libraries and Schools Affected by Hurricane Harvey

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 28, 2017

    Book DriveILA extends its deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones, livelihoods, homes, and stability to the destruction of Hurricane Harvey.

    Each year, natural disasters create devastating, long-term impacts on education. Here are several ways you can help rebuild schools, restore educational services, and revive hope and empowerment to generations of children and their communities.

    Help for libraries: 

    • The Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund awards grants to libraries to help in recovery efforts. Donate directly online or purchase a TLA Coloring Book ($10 for a set of two). All proceeds go directly to the fund.
    • Dollar General, in collaboration with the American Library Association (ALA), the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), and the National Education Association (NEA), sponsors Beyond Words, a school library disaster relief fund for public school libraries affected by a disaster. Grants are to replace or supplement books, media, or library equipment in the school library setting.
    • Scholastic will be accepting requests from schools and making donations to help rebuild library collections via their Possible Fund. Teachers in the affected areas will also receive 500 bonus points to help them rebuild their classroom libraries.
    • Simon & Schuster will be donating 250 “Best of Titles” to public or school libraries damaged by the storm or the related flooding.

    Help for schools:

    • School systems in need of instructional materials—either because of enrollment of students displaced by Hurricane Harvey or from property damage caused by the hurricane—can create an online list for donors to access through the Texas Education Agency’s Instructional Materials Assistance web page.
    • Teacher and education writer Larry Ferlazzo wrote a blog post that compiled the “Best Resources for Learning About Hurricane Harvey.”
    • Microsoft is providing data/application recovery assistance to school districts and institutions experiencing outages caused by Hurricane Harvey.
    • The American School Counselor Association published a list of resources that parents and educators can use to help children cope with natural disasters.
    • The Texas Computer Education Agency (TCEA) encourages affected educators, librarians, and administrators to create projects in Donors Choose to replace critical learning resources. Add the hashtag #TCEA to each project and TCEA will help to promote the need using their network of members, exhibitors, sponsors, partners, and contacts.
    • New York City-based nonprofit Where To Turn, which provides services to victims of tragedy, is looking to get in touch with schools in Texas to ask what supplies they may need for the upcoming school year.
    • The Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT) and the National Education Alliance (NEA), have started relief funds to support members who are educators. 
    • Students who want to raise money to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey can sign up in groups through the WE Schools programs and have their fundraising matched dollar-for-dollar by the Allstate Foundation up to $250,000. 
    • Adopt a classroom project impacted by Hurricane Harvey through friEdTechnology's Hurricane Harvey Adopt a Classroom Project.

    Check out Charity Navigator’s Hurricane Harvey page for a list of more general relief efforts.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Embracing the Unknown With ILA General Session Speaker Enrique C. Feldman

    By Colleen Clark
     | May 25, 2017
    Enrique Feldman

    Enrique C. Feldman’s goal was to develop his potential more fully when he left his position as professor of music and education at the University of Arizona (UA) in 1997. It was a comfortable, secure job, but he felt there was a greater purpose for him.

    That idea got its start when he took an early childhood music education class during his undergraduate time at UA and was enthralled by the energy of the 3- to 7-year-olds

    “That experience kept calling me over the years,” Feldman says. “I also became a dad, [which] completely immersed me into the world and the imagination of the child. I became fascinated with how young children learn.”

    And so a man with an undergraduate in music and two master’s degrees in music education and conducting and performance departed UA in search of ways he could get involved in education in a more holistic sense—going beyond teaching music to educating the whole child.

    The result: Feldman is now the founder and director of education for the Global Learning Foundation (GLF), a play-based and research-based organization that offers professional development for schools and organizations of all types. At GLF, Feldman has taken everything he’s learned over the years—from music and composition to improv and play—and channeled it into a literacy learning approach that values engagement, connection, energy, and community. He promotes trusting your instincts and knowing when to take risks, authentic learning and frameworks, and building what he calls “Possibility Culture.”

    Now, helping others develop their full potential is a large focus for Feldman, who already wears many hats, including music composer, producer, and author of Living Like a Child: Learn, Live, and Teach Creatively (Redleaf), Sam the Ant, a new children’s book series he’s cowriting with his 22-year-old daughter, and iBG, Intellectual Brainwave Games, which improve cognition and patterning and reduce stress.

    Come July, he’ll add a new title to the list: ILA 2017 Opening General Session speaker. And the theme of the session, Literacy Reimagined, couldn’t be more in tune with Feldman’s story.

    Read the open access March/April issue of Literacy Today for just a peek at what you can expect from Feldman, in his own words.

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the managing editor of Literacy Today.

    Enrique C. Feldman will speak at the Opening General Session of the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits on Saturday, July 15. Attendees can also experience more of his brain games and improv techniques at his session, “Preparing the Brain and Body for Learning and Literacy,” on Sunday, July 16, and at the ILA Power Hour Lunch on Monday, July 17. 

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    Virginia State Reading Association’s ‘Got IT?’ Promotes Informational Texts

    By Tiffany Erdos Brocious
     | Dec 20, 2016

    vsra 122016In 2014, the Virginia State Reading Association (VSRA) created strategic goals as part of our transformation process alongside ILA—then the International Reading Association. One of our goals was to create an initiative that supported a specific area of literacy instruction in our state.

    Through discussion with the Virginia Department of Education, our focus became nonfiction. In looking at statewide tests—graphs, charts, and maps appeared to be the most challenging to students—and thinking about students’ comprehension of nonfiction texts, we began to dive more deeply into our topic, and we narrowed our focus to informational texts.

    We combined the I in informational and the T in texts to create the acronym in the title of our initiative: “Got IT?”

    Developing Got IT?

    Authors of informational texts use various formatting tools such as boldface, italics, color, captions, headings and subheadings, and graphics. These tools require readers to understand why the author uses them and how they inform readers of new information. Informational texts provide needed opportunities to support inference, cause and effect, and drawing conclusions skills that, regardless of fiction or nonfiction passages, are all areas that seem to need support on our statewide tests.

    Our Got IT? mission is to explore this genre in depth, provide professional development opportunities for our members, and clarify misconceptions within the genre. In addition, we aim to improve students’ ability to navigate and to compose informational texts by improving their comprehension of how text features, graphics, and text structures work.

    The first task for us after creating a timeline of what we wanted to accomplish was to lay the foundation for what informational text is so that we are all using the same language. Just like in an informational text, we created a glossary of terms with definitions we use within our work on our statewide initiative. Terms such as flowcharts, graphics, cross-section diagrams, insets, sidebars, and surface diagrams are among a list of 20 technical terms found within informational texts. This glossary list is on our website and can be disseminated to parents and educators across Virginia.

    Throughout this past year, we completed the following items and activities to support our initiative and unify our focus.

    Slover Library kickoff

    Our kickoff activity was held at the Slover Library in Norfolk, VA, in August 2015. This was the first VSRA Board of Directors meeting for our new year. Members of the Board developed activities with informational texts and read books to students. For K–2 students, we introduced charts, diagrams, captions, and informational text vocabulary. For grades 3–5, we focused on bold wording, italics, the table of contents and index, headings, and informational text vocabulary. For the middle school level, we discussed the index and informational text vocabulary.

    We spoke with parents about the types of informational texts their children may see in school. All students were invited to participate in a “make and take” workshop, and all participants were able to choose informational texts to take home with them. Bare Books, Lakeshore Publishing, Really Good Stuff, and Scholastic provided us with materials to give to students who attended.

    Professional development activities

    In the fall of 2015, our Leadership Team worked to determine activities we could accomplish throughout the year to support the initiative. For example, the Public Relations Committee hosted a Twitter chat to focus on informational texts used in the classroom. The Parents and Reading Committee focused on distributing informational texts to parents and students at our annual conference. The Young Writers Committee created a Got IT? writing contest with a focus of students producing informational texts about their summer vacations.

    Our November 2015 Leadership Meeting focused completely on our initiative. We collaborated with the Virginia Science Museum, Radford University, and Lakeshore Publishing—all of which either provided staff development or donated materials. For example, the Virginia Science Museum shared online resources available to parents, students, and educators, while Radford University shared a list of professional informational science texts for educators.

    Also during the meeting, we asked the leaders of our local councils and committee chairs to form four small groups based on their localities within the state. We call these groups “quads.” The purpose is for groups of leaders who live near each other to develop lists of resources around our state. Leaders in the quads identified authors, maps, science museums, local attractions, and anything that would support the Got IT? initiative. We combined the information and published it on our website so parents and educators would have access to resources in their local communities.

    Last winter, we identified informational texts in our Virginia Readers’ Choice List, and we’ve developed a partnership with The Nature Generation, another nonprofit, to consider some of their award-winning books on next year’s voting ballot.

    During our conference in March, we placed an emphasis on informational texts by inviting a representative from the Virginia Department of Education, who provided updates on our statewide tests, and speakers such as Nell Duke and Donalyn Miller, who shared insight on informational texts that support instruction.

    The future of Got IT?

    Our plan is to continue promoting our initiative and to capitalize on the idea of quads. We are hoping that we will be able to build strong collaboration among counties and local councils in the quads and that they may work together to provide professional development opportunities for members in their areas.

    We also hope they may want to cross over the boundary lines so we can continue working together to reduce illiteracy across our state.

    tiffany brocious headshotTiffany Erdos Brocious is the 2015–2016 Virginia State Reading Association (VSRA) President. During her presidency, VSRA received the ILA Distinguished Council Award. An ILA member since 1991, she is a K–5 literacy coach for Loudoun County Public Schools.

    This article originally appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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