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.

Literacy Now

ILA Network
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Job Functions
    • Corporate Sponsor
    • Blog Posts
    • Opportunity Gap
    • Literacy Advocacy
    • Funding
    • Policy & Advocacy
    • Topics
    • ILA Network
    • News & Events
    • Volunteer
    • Tutor
    • Teacher Educator
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Retiree
    • Reading Specialist
    • Policymaker
    • Partner Organization
    • Other/Literacy Champion
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Literacy Coach
    • Librarian
    • Administrator
    • Content Types

    A New Summer Tune to Close the Reading Gap

    By Amber Garbe and Paula Bartel
     | Jun 21, 2016

    LT336_Book Cycle3I am sure you’re familiar with a certain summer tune—the one announcing that the ice cream truck is on its way.

    But imagine this: Instead of indicating a vessel full of treats is making its trip down the street, a new tune signals something entirely different—opportunities for summer reading.

    That’s the case in our community of Stevens Point, WI, where children come running to get their hands on picture books and chapter books instead of ice cream cones and water ice.

    We call it the Book Cycle. Sponsored by the Central Wisconsin Reading Council, it is an adult-sized tricycle complete with a basket stocked with a variety of high-interest texts, and it is ridden by a book devourer ready to help whet the appetites of enthusiastic and reluctant readers alike.

    The goal is simple: Match students with a book that leads them to pick up another book and then another, igniting the passion for reading.

    Witnessing the excitement

    Educational researchers have found that one of the simplest ways to hook kids into a lifelong love of reading is to provide access to high-quality texts. The Book Cycle provides just that—fingertip access to texts children can select for the pure pleasure and intrigue offered by the title, cover, images, and text.

    The Book Cycle brings a level of excitement to kids. It even becomes part of the neighborhood social scene as a community gathers at the book cart to find their next read, which sometimes starts as soon as the bike pedals off.

    As volunteer riders, we’ve looked over our shoulders to capture the beautiful view of siblings enjoying a book on the stoop of their front porch. At another stop, we’ve seen children select a book and begin reading under the shade of a tree. As cofounders, those moments bring us heart-thumping pleasure.

    The inspiration for the project was borne out of children’s need for access to books during the summer. In 2006, our school welcomed several Hmong refugee immigrants, all whohad tremendous interest in books but little access. Many other children attending the school also had limited access to books over the summer. Transportation to a public library was difficult, which only accentuated the problem.

    As members of our local reading council, we looked to our colleagues to help get the idea of a summer mobile library off the ground. Through fundraising and the generous support of local businesses, the Central Wisconsin Reading Council raised funds for two trikes and materials for our lending library to begin the mobile library in the summer of 2009.

    Our Book Cycle trikes have been cruising the Stevens Point streets two afternoons per week during the months of June, July, and August for the past seven years, making stops along the way at spots marked by yard signs declaring: “The Book Cycle Stops Here: Come and Get a Free Book.”

    Although the design of the mobile library is an exchange system, which increases the distribution, the system is informal and the emphasis is on matching children and books. If a child isn’t able to find the borrowed book, he or she is not denied another read.

    You could say it has been a bit of an evolution, with a lot of support from our local and state councils, the school district, and local businesses. Over time, we have partnered with organizations that service children, including the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to bring the Book Cycle library to children participating in those programs.

    Going the extra mile

    We measure the success of the Book Cycle by anecdotal stories and the relationships built. Our 20–30 volunteers, often teachers, offer recommendations to help match a child and a book. There are typically 300–400 books to choose from, but the volunteers also take requests. While children are browsing, volunteers talk with the children, parents, and grandparents.

    One family has been borrowing books for all seven years of the Book Cycle’s existence. Initially apprehensive to borrow books out of fear that their younger children might destroy them, we assured the parents and grandparents that the Book Cycle did not have fines. We don’t know what these children’s reading achievements would be without the Book Cycle, but we know that this family, arriving in the United States in 2006, has elementary-age children who are meeting and exceeding grade-level benchmarks.

    Another family on the route, at times hesitant to be part of the school community, comes out together to pick out books. When one child in the family wasn’t home, the others began selecting books for their missing family member. Conversations during the selection process showed what the family knew about one another as readers.

    Our volunteers go the extra mile—literally—to establish a relationship with students and families. When a grandmother reminisced about the countless times she read Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino to her own daughter and expressed frustration in not finding the book at local garage sales, a volunteer purchased the book so the grandmother could enjoy it with her grandchildren.

    Building a reading relationship

    We realize the Book Cycle is not about the tunes or the shiny trikes. It is about building relationships with children and extending access to high-interest texts. Our anecdotal stories and connections with children and families reflect the success and are the only fuel we need to keep the Book Cycle going.

    As volunteers, we can’t help but smile as we pedal through town. As cofounders, we hope the moment of hearing the trike coming spills over and transfers to the excitement of turning the pages of a captivating book.

    Amber Garbe, an ILA member since 2009 and a past president of the Central Wisconsin Reading Council, is currently the literacy coordinator for Mosinee Schools in Wisconsin. Paula Bartel, an ILA member since 1988 and also a past president of the Central Wisconsin Reading Council, is currently a reading specialist in the Stevens Point Area School District in Wisconsin.

     
    Read More
    • Blog Posts
    • Administrator
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Job Functions
    • Nontraditional Learning Environments
    • Teaching Strategies
    • Reading
    • Comprehension
    • Foundational Skills
    • Topics
    • ILA Network
    • News & Events
    • Volunteer
    • Teacher Educator
    • Reading Specialist
    • Partner Organization
    • Other/Literacy Champion
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Librarian
    • Corporate Sponsor
    • Content Types

    Reaching Children and Parents Through Storytelling

    By Ruth J. Berg
     | Apr 06, 2016

    LT335_Storybook3Like thousands of literacy educators around the world, members of the Greater Boston Reading Council (GBC) reach out to parents and children in order to help them experience literature and to develop a love of reading. One of the initiatives we are most proud of that accomplishes this lofty goal is our annual Storybook Character Breakfast, which fosters an appreciation of literacy and exposes children to books, all while providing a wealth of ideas for parents to try at home.

    The GBC, in conjunction with the Medford Family Network, has sponsored the event on the first Saturday in May for 16 years. The Medford Family Network, a fitting partner, is a parenting education and family support program that prioritizes the family structure as the child’s primary and most important learning center. It aims to serve all families in Medford, MA, a working class, urban community just six miles from Boston—one where 65 languages are spoken among the school district’s families.

    On the surface, the event appears to be a simple get-together for preschool through second-grade students. But the thoughtful actions that make the day so much fun for families can have a long-lasting impact.

    Held in a school setting, the Storybook Character Breakfast involves GBC volunteers dressing up using professional costumes (think beloved characters including Curious George, Rotten Ralph, Lyle the Crocodile, and George and Martha), and more than 100 children from 80 families are consistently in attendance. Along with being treated to a free breakfast, the children are able to chat with their favorite characters, play games, pose for photos, receive autographs and free books to take home, and more.

    Children move among various, volunteer-run stations such as face painting, poems, and related arts and crafts, as well as a center where children can make bookmarks, learn songs and fingerplays, and listen to books and stories read by Mother Goose.

    Parental involvement

    Just as important as the kids’ activities, parents are offered packets of materials containing concrete suggestions for reading at home.

    We distribute two versions of the A Child Becomes a Reader pamphlet, issued by the National Institute for Literacy; one is intended for birth- through preschool-age children while the other is geared toward kindergarteners through third graders. The pamphlets list ways to develop a literate home as well as provide ideas and activities parents can do with their children. Each pamphlet includes a short summary of research on how children learn to read and write.

    Another pamphlet we give out is Raising a Reader, Raising a Writer, published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. It contains suggestions for promoting literacy at home and information on what families should look for in early childhood programs.

    At each station, volunteers model research-based methods of reading instruction—another important method for reaching both the reader and the parent. The volunteers particularly emphasize interactive read-alouds, communication by discussing the books before, during, and after reading, and reflection on the story or the information in the book.

    At the various activity centers, volunteers demonstrate, explain, and model ways for parents to engage with their children to develop literacy, problem-solving, inquiry, observation, and collaboration skills.

    Also important, the organizers ensure the community’s diversity is reflected by the volunteers and in the books that the children get to take home.

    “Medford is quite diverse, so it is great to see families from all cultures and backgrounds come together in a very positive way, surrounded by resources and people who support and promote literacy in its greatest sense, in a joyful yet meaningful way,” said Marie Cassidy, a family specialist with the Medford Family Network.

    A memorable experience

    Not only does this breakfast nourish a love of favorite book characters, good stories, music, and fingerplays, but parents eagerly anticipate the different techniques they can learn and use at home to build on this budding enthusiasm for reading.

    “More than anything, I appreciate the experience as a whole: roaming from station to station, interacting with old friends, making new ones, and learning as a parent how to encourage my children to be curious (like George!) and to explore,” said Jen O., whose 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter attended the event. “It seems they use all their senses at this event, and I get to take home a great packet of helpful ideas to further my children’s healthy growth and development.”

    Saima A., the mother of a 5-year-old boy, agreed. “We have such a wonderful time at this event each year,” she said. “My son carefully chooses his free book and drags me to the Story Station to listen to several stories. I have learned some interesting ‘tricks’ from the readers, ways to keep him engaged, thinking, and discovering new ideas through the books.”

    Getting children interested in literature is truly a major achievement, and bringing their parents into the mission is vital. This event is a way other councils—or any group—can achieve such important goals.

    Replicating GBC’s Storybook Character Breakfast, whether sponsored by a preschool, an elementary school, the family-school organization, Title I, or a local reading council, is not difficult and the rewards are tremendous.

    Ruth J. Berg, an ILA member for more than 25 years, has served for nearly 30 years as a reading specialist at the Cotting School in Lexington, MA. She is a former Greater Boston Reading Council president, Celebrate Literacy Award recipient, and a Massachusetts Reading Association Literacy Award recipient. She is active in both organizations and serves on their boards.

     
    Read More
    • Volunteer
    • Tutor
    • Topics
    • Teacher Educator
    • Special Education Teacher
    • School Leadership
    • Retiree
    • Reading Specialist
    • Policymaker
    • Policy & Advocacy
    • Partner Organization
    • Other/Literacy Champion
    • Networking
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Literacy Coach
    • Literacy Advocacy
    • Librarian
    • Job Functions
    • Councils & Affiliates
    • Corporate Sponsor
    • Content Types
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Blog Posts
    • Administrator
    • News & Events
    • ILA Network

    Becoming More Knowledgeable About Policy Through a Meaningful Partnership

    By Millie Henning
     | Feb 29, 2016

    ThinkstockPhotos-479966128What is a professional partnership? By definition, it is an entity formed by two or more professional organizations that provide services to the public. However, finding a professional partner or, more to the point, establishing a significant two-way partnership, can be a daunting task.

    It is a challenge, however, that the Keystone State Reading Association (KSRA) has gladly taken on, as we are in the process of forging such a professional partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)—a move we would encourage other councils to take with similar agencies in their area.

    KSRA is the Pennsylvania state literacy council whose mission is to empower educators, leaders, and the community by providing opportunities and resources to make literacy accessible for all. PDE is an executive department of the state charged with publicly funded preschool, K–12, and adult educational budgeting, management, and guidelines. As the state education agency, the governor-appointed Pennsylvania secretary of education directs its activities.

    KSRA believes many of the decisions necessary for student and school success should not be made by an individual organization. Rather, these decisions should be made after collaborative discussions among educational organizations, policymakers, educators, and parents. The purpose of this article is to share the process KSRA is using to develop a professional partnership with PDE to ensure all stakeholder voices are heard.

    A reason to partner up

    During the fall of 2014, PDE announced it was changing the requirements for obtaining a K–12 reading specialist certificate by simply allowing educators to take a test. This suggested policy change immediately ignited a fiery response from most of the teacher preparation colleges and universities in Pennsylvania as well as current reading specialist certificate holders.

    On one hand, PDE stated the certificate add-on-by-testing option was enough for an educator to demonstrate competency as a reading specialist. On the other hand, KSRA stated educators should be certified only after completing rigorous coursework and supervised practicum.

    This opposing viewpoint led KSRA leadership to request a face-to-face meeting with the secretary of education. This was new territory for the current KSRA leaders, so we prepared by gathering information to explain our views, provided the rationale for KSRA’s position and actions sought, and offered our assistance. The PDE committee listened to our concerns intently.

    In return, we also listened to PDE’s issues about add-on-by-testing options. Both organizations discovered we shared like-minded individuals and the common goals of preparing highly qualified reading specialists and creating an authentic learning environment for all students across Pennsylvania.

    This first encounter gave us the hope, desire, and impetus to pursue a positive, two-way partnership.

    Becoming partners

    The issue that prompted our first meeting remains unresolved, although PDE did place a moratorium on its policy of attaining the reading specialist certificate by testing after our discussions. However, it is not that issue about which I write, but rather the process and importance of partnering.

    Both PDE and KSRA initially gathered information from each other such as knowing what prompted PDE to want to change its policy in the first place and why KSRA espouses the coursework with practicum approach. We questioned, suggested, and pontificated on regulations, theories of literacy, and the needs we brought to the table. We left the table with facial recognition for the names we had known, a clearer understanding of the motivations behind our interface, and an intense desire to establish the best direction for issue resolution.

    Change in the field of education does not happen quickly, nor does a professional partnership develop depth at the outset. But we knew we wanted to follow up on all the nuances and details exchanged by continued meetings, which have carried on largely through correspondence, e-mail, and telephone conversations, and have begun to cover other topics such as teacher preparation, teacher evaluation, and assessments.

    The benefits and rewards

    Our partnership continues to develop and grow. For example, the PDE bureau directors now recognize KSRA as an important professional organization for educators, and KSRA recognizes PDE as approachable, supportive, and knowledgeable about educational policy.

    When our relationship began, KSRA was in the process of planning its 48th annual conference. What better opportunity than a conference to invite PDE to join with us, contribute the most current, definitive information, and inform our entire membership and guests of our now-developing partnership? We were most fortunate to have PDE Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew Stem to answer questions from concerned educators. He fielded questions on topics such as teacher evaluation, state testing requirements, allocation of resources, and early literacy.

    At the same time, KSRA has become more open-minded about the process of educational policy, improving our reputation as willing to collaborate for educational solutions. Finally, KSRA has gained important contacts in PDE that have expanded our knowledge base. We are able to share more accurate information with our members on the avenues available for changing the certification process, passing a piece of legislation, or converting the reading specialist certification to educational specialist certification.

    Building a relationship with PDE is a work in progress and one that KSRA values, will nurture, and looks forward to continuing.

    Most important, KSRA encourages other councils to follow suit and to develop a similar partnership with their local education departments. Knowing the how and why of the decision and policymaking process provides the bridge to do so.

    Millie Henning, an ILA member since 1982, has served for three years as director of the Literacy Advocacy Committee for the Keystone State Reading Association. She is a retired reading specialist and currently a college supervisor for Cabrini College in Radnor, PA.

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

     
    Read More
  • IRA member Geri Melosh remembers a Liberian champion of literacy.
    • Blog Posts
    • ILA Network

    In Memory of a Liberian Literacy Leader

    by Geri Melosh
     | Dec 10, 2014

    Contributed photo
    Jacob Sendolo (center in yellow) in happier times.
    For months, news services around the world have issued reports on the Ebola epidemic that has savaged West Africa. Since March, there have been over 17,000 reported cases of Ebola and more than 6,000 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Liberia, the worse-hit country of the Ebola outbreak, with more than 3,000 deaths, has fought this deadly virus with a severely strained public health infrastructure weakened by 23 years of a brutal dictatorship and civil war. Schools have been closed, food is in short supply, and many people are unemployed due to the crisis. News reports have typically spoken of the toll Ebola has taken on healthcare workers—doctors and nurses who have died valiantly in the line of duty, but they have not been the only victims of this deadly virus. In the last week of November, Jacob Sendolo, principal, teacher and long-term officer in the Liberian affiliate of the IRA, also died from Ebola.  His death will be felt deeply.

     

    I met Mr. Sendolo six years ago in 2009 in Monrovia when he was the principal of a school piloting a new literacy program, “Liberia Reads,” developed by our Florida-based non-profit, the Children’s Reading Center (CRC) in partnership with the Liberian YMCA.  Mr. Sendolo, as principal of a YMCA school, jumped at the chance to have several of his primary grade teachers trained in phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension strategies. He attended all of the training his teachers underwent and agreed to limit the size of his classes in the early grades and keep classroom books and instructional materials secure. In 2011, he became a founding member of the Association of Literacy Educators (ALE), the first IRA affiliate in Liberia. In subsequent years, he became an assistant trainer in the Liberia Reads project, participated in ALE sponsored workshops to instruct teachers in other Monrovia and up-country schools in Liberia Reads literacy strategies. He enjoyed showing teachers how reading strategies could also be applied to math and served as one of the presenters at the first Liberian IRA national conference held in July 2014. During this time, Mr. Sendolo was also pursuing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Liberia.

    The best proof of Mr. Sendolo’s dedication to his profession was at his own school. His YMCA school is typical of most schools in Liberia with concrete block walls, a zinc roof, and hand-painted blackboards. Like 95% of Liberian schools, it has no electricity or running water. Six years ago when we first visited the school, classroom walls were bare, students did not have reading texts, and teachers had almost no literacy training. But at an unannounced visit by a CRC consultant in November 2013, it was clear a metamorphosis had occurred. Walls were no longer bare, but covered in student work, word walls, ABCs, and phonics blending ladders. Teachers were on task teaching literacy strategies and all primary students had reading texts and were engaged with instruction. Best of all, norm-referenced assessments indicated that the majority of Mr. Sendolo’s students were learning how to read.

    Mr. Sendolo died after contracting Ebola at a traditional funeral for a teacher who everyone had been led to believe died of other causes. Two other Liberia Reads teachers at his school were also exposed. His loss brings home how the damage of Ebola will last long after the disease is eradicated in Liberia. Mr. Sendolo touched many lives through his strong work ethic and his dedication to improving literacy levels in Liberian children. He will be sorely missed.

    Geri Melosh is longtime member of the IRA and principal of the Children’s Reading Center Charter School in Palatka, FL. She and her husband served as Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia in the ‘70s. She returns to Liberia regularly to help run literacy programs.

     
    Read More
  • An abrupt change in Pennsylvania's reading specialist certification triggers a forceful response from the KSRA.

    • Blog Posts
    • ILA Network

    PA Dept. of Ed Does End Run On Reading Specialist Certification

    by Dan Mangan
     | Nov 26, 2014

    Given the high stakes that are placed today on student achievement and testing outcomes, it might be assumed that major changes in educational policy can only result from careful debate in public forums informed by full consideration of research-based approaches for enhancing classroom instruction. But such is decidedly not the case in Pennsylvania where the formal qualifications for a critical academic position were changed in early November by means of a single sentence buried at the very end of a routine two-page email update from the Department of Education’s (PDE) Division of Professional Education and Teacher Quality.

    Careful readers of the PDE email of November 5, 2014 discovered to their utter astonishment that the education department is apparently doing a complete about-face on the qualifications for becoming a reading specialist in the state. The full text of the single-sentence blurb states that “Reading Specialist is a content area that can be added to an instructional certificate by testing.” This terse announcement, hardly a model of administrative clarity, has been published as an ipse dixit: it is not accompanied by any background information, explanatory comment, or practical guidance.

    PA Acting Secretary of Ed
    Carolyn Dumaresq

    Unfortunately for the Acting Secretary of Education, Carolyn Dumaresq, Pennsylvania’s literacy educators are not at all docile and know an end run when they see one. The PDE’s reticence on this matter is noteworthy. Apparently PDE is not unduly concerned by the impression created of an attempt to sneak something through. Moreover, it is surprising that a state education department would consider lessening requirements for certification at a time when teacher education generally has come under attack by groups like the National Council on Teacher Quality and others.

    What Happened in 2003

    Just how bizarre is all of this? A good way to answer that question is to go back to 2003 when a similar change was attempted by the state’s education department. At that time educators across the state voiced strong opposition to the attempted elimination of rigorous coursework for this important role, which involves many discrete skill sets, specific knowledge, and mentored experience. Leading the way was the Keystone State Reading Association (KSRA), an affiliate of the International Reading Association (IRA), a membership association of literacy professionals. KSRA mounted a vigorous advocacy campaign, directed by its former Governmental Relations Chair, Jesse Moore.

    Moore testified at hearings on the issue, a process with no parallel as yet in the current situation. He pointed out that granting reading specialist certification based on a two-hour multiple choice test contradicted the IRA Standards for Reading Professionals, which are used by the National Council for the Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE). He emphasized that NCATE had always considered reading specialist certification to be an advanced degree program. Moore and the KSRA leadership also invited the education secretary to a state board meeting where exchanges with members and other concerned educators was enough to eventually prompt a change of mind and get the test-only pathway to reading specialist certification revoked.

    This past history makes the single-sentence policy reversal by Dr. Dumaresq all the more baffling, coming, as it does, in the interregnum between Pennsylvania’s outgoing and incoming gubernatorial administrations. One wonders just who pushed for this change at this time, whom it is intended to serve, and how such an ill-conceived disclosure process could possibly foster compliance, let alone produce a beneficial result. The department of education now has a fight on its hands, and the charge is being led once again by the KSRA.

    KSRA’s New Call to Action

    Julie B. Wise, KSRA’s current president, wasted no time calling attention to Dr. Dumaresq’s action, informing her members in an email that the PDEis trying to employ a shortcut to an academic certification program that requires specialized education. “We are concerned about the abrupt decision by PDE to provide an alternative option for certifying reading specialists instead of training reading specialists through graduate courses,” which, she noted, “provide intensive academic and field work to prepare competent K-12 reading specialists.”  

    Julie B. Wise

    As KSRA sees it, school districts hire teachers who complete graduate reading programs because of the strong foundational knowledge of strategic teaching, diagnostic abilities, and professional support they aptly provide to students and general education teachers. Rita Bean of KSRA, a former IRA board member,puts the issue this way: “What happened to rigor? We talk about quality teaching—and high level standards—and improving teacher performance. Yet the state is willing, on the basis of one test, to grant reading specialist certification to individuals with initial teaching certification?” KSRA’s message to Harrisburg is that PDE needs “to rescind the hasty decision,” and “reinforce the appropriate route for earning a quality K-12 reading specialist certification.”

    Wise and KSRA’s Governmental Relations Chair, Millie Henning, are mobilizing college education school deans, school districts, and local literacy associations across the state to communicate their opposition to the test-only certification idea. They are also planning to request a meeting with PDE. Their advocacy strategy is spelled out in full on the landing page of the KSRA website. As Wise points out, the issue affects graduate education students as well: “If educators decide to take the test-only certification approach, will districts hire them when they lack preparation that includes strong fieldwork?”

    Going Forward

    It remains to be seen whether Dr. Dumaresq can be prevailed upon to change course, and if not, whether the appointment of a new secretary under the incoming governor will make a difference. Meanwhile KSRA has been joined in its advocacy effort by the leadership of IRA.

    Jill Lewis-Spector, IRA’s current president, believes test-only certification will have serious ramifications: “The solution for having more and well-prepared teachers who can address the literacy achievement gap is for teachers to pursue additional preparation for teaching literacy from nationally accredited programs.”

    IRA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post concurs: “There is no short cut or substitute for graduate level training when it comes to setting qualifications for the reading specialist certificate.” Post has pledged IRA’s assistance in KSRA’s campaign to drive this point home to PDE.

    Dan Mangan is the Director of Public Affairs at the International Reading Association, dmangan@/.

     
    Read More
Back to Top

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives