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    Year in Review: Catching Up With Some of ILA's 30 Under 30 Honorees

    By Maura C. Ciccarelli
     | Sep 21, 2017

    Jeff FondaA lot has happened since last September when ILA announced its 2016 class of 30 Under 30 honorees, a list that celebrates the up-and-coming generation of literacy champions. After hearing from Kathryn Lett at the Closing General Session of the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, we also wanted to check in with her fellow honorees to see what they’ve been up to.

    Read on to see how some of their lives have changed and how they continued to change the lives of so many others in just the past year.

    Babar Ali, founder and headmaster of Ananda Siksha Niketan (“Home of Joyful Learning”) in Murshidabad, India, announced that the first floor of his new free school was constructed in early 2017, enabling even more students to enroll this year. Students also are taking part in a social forestry program to promote awareness of the problems around deforestation, and senior students are working with the school’s adult literacy program to spread learning wider in the community.

    Seventh-grade English teacher Alex Corbitt spent last year at his school, MS331 in the Bronx, New York, developing and facilitating a Teen Activism class that used current events to focus on social justice issues such as the prison industrial complex, racism in society, mental health, substance abuse, animal rights, and bullying. “The 2016–2017 school year was fraught with sociopolitical tragedy and confusion,” he says. “Our Teen Activism class created a space for my students and me to reflect, process, listen, and heal.”

    For Tanyella Evans, cofounder/CEO of the New York-based Library For All, the last year has seen close to 10,000 children from 50 schools in Haiti, Rwanda, Congo, Cambodia, and Mongolia get free access to their online reading library accessible by low-cost mobile devices. The library now includes 3,806 titles in seven languages. While creating the library, the group discovered a surprising gap: As many as 40% of people around the world are not learning to read a language they speak or understand. In response, Library For All launched writer workshops to teach local authors and illustrators how to publish e-books in their native language. The first two were held earlier this year in Haiti and another was hosted in Montreal, with members of the Haitian diaspora. Kids in Haiti got to “test read” print versions of some of the books. “They were delighted to see an entire stack of books written in their own language, with illustrations of Haitian children and landscape that remind them of home,” Evans says.

    Since last year, Jeff Fonda’s nonprofit, The Literate Earth Project, has opened three more libraries in Uganda: at Lwani Memorial College in Amuru District, Nkumba Quran Primary School in Entebbe District, and St. James Primary School in Entebbe District. The project, which is based in Pennsylvania, has now created 13 libraries and is on target to meet its goal of creating four each year.

    In Brazil, Gustavo Fuga’s 4You2 social program continues to teach English to help people access higher education opportunities and have the potential to earn an additional 64% in wages. This spring, the group further honed its teaching tools and methodology. “We would like to launch a literacy project for papers and research this year,” he says.

    Anneli Hershman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student, reports that her literacy app development team at the MIT Media Lab completed an extensive research pilot with families using their SpeechBlocks app in their homes. “It has been really exciting to see how we can incorporate families into the literacy learning process with our tools,” she says. The group is also researching the literacy learning process and creating new apps that go beyond a focus on learning and using individual words to emphasizing the importance of storytelling and self-expression to encourage literacy.

    Kathryn Lett, an EL teacher with Kentwood Public Schools in Michigan, says the school held its second annual Parade of Nations, where “students proudly waved their country’s flag while their nation’s anthem and classmates’ cheers played in the background.” After the parade, her school held a multicultural night and each class prepared presentations, games, and decor that focused on a country belonging to one of the classmates. “It was amazing to see my school come together for one common goal: to celebrate diversity as our strength and to eradicate the idea that differences equal deficits,” says Lett, who also serves on the board of the West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center. Lett also began developing a literacy initiative to better equip non-English-speaking parents with helping their children learn to read. Parents will be provided with reading comprehension questions in their native languages so that they can provide literacy support in the home. 

    The LitPick Student Book Reviews program continues to grow, attracting even more students to write reviews for the website, says administrator Tynea Lewis, who is based in Pennsylvania. Some students have turned their written reviews into animated videos that are shown on the organization’s YouTube channel. She also has been volunteering as a judge for the Story Monsters LLC’s Dragonfly Book Awards. She adds, “I have completed a few children’s poetry manuscripts and am currently working on a larger project for an adult audience.”

    Sean T. Lynch, English department head for the Commonwealth Academy for Inner City Scholars in Massachusetts, is taking the gaming model he developed to help with reading skills and developing it into other areas that involve game-based teaching practices and student-directed learning. He is creating an experimental curriculum for the ELA classroom that uses narrative and text-based cell phone apps to get kids hooked. “I used the app ‘A Normal Lost Phone’ to great success in class,” he says. “It got students reading, instructed on social justice, and produced thoughtful responses. It turns out that I was misguided in my technophobia...the future of education I now believe is games and gaming.”

    Aarti Naik, founder of SAKHI for Girls’ Education in Mumbai, India, says her group has continued to expand its Girls Book Bank project, in which adolescent girls from SAKHI become “Reading Leaders” for their neighborhood. Each Sunday, they go door-to-door to give books to 20 girls and gather them together in fun activities to inspire reading, improve vocabulary, and build confidence. They also receive a monthly educational scholarship for their work. This spring, Naik was recognized for her work in the education category of the Femina Women Awards 2017.

    Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum was pleased to report that her Accra, Ghana-based publishing company, African Bureau Stories, has produced its first books: two picture books and two early chapter books created by talented writers and illustrators from Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria to reflect the worlds of their young readers. “I’m launching a Ghana Corporates for Literacy project to partner with companies to place brand new, culturally relevant storybooks into the hands of children across Ghana, one classroom at a time,” she says.

    Ekaterina Popova, educator and researcher in Moscow, Russia, has been busy as secretary of the Reading Association of Russia with attracting new members. She helped launch a new e-mail-based digest that outlines best practices in reading and literacy, the Association’s research results, and new opportunities for members. In addition to developing a survey and processing data from the group’s longitudinal “Reading That Unites Us” research project (featured in the May/June 2017 issue of Literacy Today), she helped design a new project with colleagues called “Dialogue of Generations: Reading, Communication, and Social Behaviour.” The mission is to search for books and movies to create a unifying cultural platform that is significant for several generations.

    Matt Presser, formerly a teacher and coach at King-Robinson Inter-District Magnet School in Connecticut and now a doctoral student at Harvard University, designed a pen pal project between incarcerated teenagers and tenth graders he was working with in Boston. “My students were concerned about the effects of mass incarceration and wrote back and forth with incarcerated teens to understand their experiences,” he reports. “Their correspondence project had deep impact. It inspired my students to write to Boston Public Schools officials with recommended alternatives to suspension and to New York City teenagers to encourage them to lobby their state legislators about the Raise the Age legislation that their state was considering.” Presser is a 2017 recipient of Harvard’s Presidential Public Service Fellowship.

    Kelly Taylor, a teacher at Peel Language Development School in Perth, Australia, recently embarked on an action research project to collect evidence around using the arts as a pedagogical approach to teaching literacy in a special education context. “Specifically, I’m looking at how all aspects of the arts can be used to elicit and extend students’ vocabulary,” she says. She hopes the study will contribute to existing evidence that all students, regardless of their abilities and challenges, should be entitled to a learning environment rich in the arts to enhance their education. As a speaker at the ILA 2017 Conference, she shared strategies for empowering students with language delays.

    Arcadia Elementary School literacy coach Melissa Wells reports that she and her South Carolina–based school continue to focus on including family members as vital partners in students’ literacy development. The school’s library now has a Family Literacy Center that lets families check out bundles of books to read at home. In addition, Wells finished her dissertation and earned a doctorate in language and literacy from the University of South Carolina. “In the fall, I will be joining the education department faculty at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, where my focus will be on early literacy,” she says. “I am excited to be working with our newest educators as they prepare to support students as readers, writers, and thinkers in their future classrooms.” Wells also presented her dissertation research at ILA 2017.

    For more information on the entire 2016 class of 30 Under 30 honorees, as well as the 2015 list, visit literacyworldwide.org/30under30.

    Do you know an educator or literacy advocate making an extraordinary impact in the lives of students and others in their community? Nominations for the next 30 Under 30 list, to be published in January 2019, are open. Submissions must be received by June 1, 2018. For more information, visit literacyworldwide.org/30under30.

    Maura CiccarelliMaura C. Ciccarelli is a freelance writer specializing in education and nonprofits as well as a wide variety of other topics.


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    These 2018 ILA Award and Grant Applications Are Now Available

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 30, 2017

    ILA AwardsThe International Literacy Association’s (ILA) awards recognize excellence and showcase best practices in literacy research, instruction, and advocacy. Applications for the following awards and grants must be submitted by January 15, 2018—don’t wait until the deadline is looming!

    Applications are now open for:

    Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards: These awards are intended for newly published authors who show unusual promise in the children's and young adults' book field. Awards are given for fiction and nonfiction in each of three categories: primary, intermediate, and young adult. Books from all countries and published in English for the first time during the 2017 calendar year will be considered.

    Dina Feitelson Research Award: This US$500 award recognizes an outstanding empirical study published in English in a refereed journal, submitted by author or others. Publications from January 2016 through December 2016 are eligible for the 2018 award.

    Elva Knight Research Grant: ILA members apply for this US$5,000 grant for research in reading and literacy.

    Helen M. Robinson Grant: ILA member doctoral students apply for this US$1,200 grant to assist at the early stages of dissertation research in the areas of reading and literacy.

    Jeanne S. Chall Research Fellowship: ILA members apply for this US$5,000 grant to support reading research by promising scholars.        

    Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading Award: This US$1,000 award honors college or university teachers of reading methods or reading-related courses. Applicants must be ILA members.

    Maryann Manning Special Service Award: ILA members apply or are nominated by peers for this award, given annually to a member who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment of distinguished service in the field of literacy.

    Nila Banton Smith Teacher as Researcher Grant: ILA member classroom teachers who undertake action research inquiries about literacy and instruction apply for this US$5,000 grant.     

    Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award: ILA members who have completed dissertations in any aspect of the field of reading or literacy between May 15, 2016, and May 14, 2017, are eligible to apply for this award. Summaries of winning dissertations are published each year in Reading Research Quarterly, ILA’s leading global journal.

    Steven A. Stahl Research Grant: ILA member graduate students who have at least three years of teaching experience and who are conducting classroom research apply for this US$1,000 grant.

    William S. Gray Citation of Merit: ILA members who have made outstanding contributions to multiple facets of literacy development—research, theory, practice, and policy—apply or are nominated by a peer for this award.

    The remainder of our awards will open on October 1, 2017. Applicants are encouraged to read all criteria on our Awards & Grants page before applying. Questions about the application process should be directed to Wendy Logan at wlogan@reading.org

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily. 
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    ILA Issues Brief, Announces Upcoming Blog Series on Overcoming the Digital Divide

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 15, 2017

    Overcoming the Digital DivideThe International Literacy Association (ILA)  yesterday introduced an upcoming, four-part weekly blog series on overcoming the digital divide. Starting August 21, the series is an extension of ILA’s latest brief, which explores deficits in digital literacy as both a cause and a consequence of socioeconomic, racial, gender, geographic, familial, and other factors.

    The brief discusses two forms of digital divides: one of access to technology and the Internet, and another of implementation. Without strong instruction that supports “exploration, knowledge work, and connections between people,” students are not able to harness the academic potential and the social and economic benefits of these tools, according to ILA.

    ILA also recognizes limitations imposed by the types of devices available (e.g., students cannot perform the same functions on a smartphone as they can on an iPad); location (some devices are prohibitively expensive in parts of the developing world); gender inequality (male students tend to have more developed technology skills); and parenting behaviors (parents’ income, knowledge, and interest affect children’s digital skills acquisition).

    The brief ends with a call to action, identifying four critical steps educators can take to close the digital divide: increase funding, critically frame 21st-century skills, provide resources, and advocate for government support and policy changes.

    Each blog post in the series will serve as a how-to guide on how to tackle one of the four critical steps. The guides will be grounded in peer-reviewed research and firsthand conversations with experts.

    “We understand the systemic, underlying issues that are driving the divide. But now what? We wanted to take it a step further,” says Marcie Craig Post.

    “We can’t afford to wait for help from corporate funding, government subsidies, and policymakers. While we work toward solutions on a national and international plane, we can start by confronting the issue on a district level, a school level, a classroom level, or even a student level,” she adds.

    ILA hopes the guides will help educators embrace their role in leveling the playing field to ensure that students are being exposed to the same devices, using the same programs, receiving the same quality of instruction and support, engaging in the same mental activities, and gaining the same knowledge and experience.

    “There are small changes educators can make to help narrow the gap, inch by inch,” says Post. “These patchwork solutions can have life-changing outcomes.”

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily

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    ILA Issues Statement of Solidarity with Charlottesville

    By Lara Deloza
     | Aug 14, 2017

    Charlottesville StatementThe International Literacy Association (ILA) extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Heather Heyer, who tragically lost her life this past weekend, and the dozens more who were injured in Charlottesville, Va.

    We also mourn the loss of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates and offer our condolences to their loved ones.

    As a literacy organization, we rarely suffer from a lack of words, but in this instance, we find ourselves struggling.

    For now, we will say this:

    ILA stands with Charlottesville. We stand with those who have vowed to fight racism and xenophobia. We stand with those who denounce the violence fueled by both.

    We are committed to providing resources to literacy educators across the globe to help them fight injustice from the classroom. And we will continue the conversations within the education community that demonstrate how literacy can enact social change.

    We hope that you will join us in these efforts. 

    Lara Deloza is the senior communications manager at ILA.

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    Standards 2017: The CliffsNotes

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 26, 2017

    Standards UpdateThe International Literacy Association (ILA) unveiled a revised draft of the Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits in Orlando, FL, incorporating feedback from the public comment period that took place earlier this year. The presentation was delivered by ILA 2017 Standards Revision Committee cochairs Diane Kern, associate professor at the University of Rhode Island, and Rita Bean, professor emerita, University of Pittsburgh.

    Standards 2017 establishes criteria for literacy professional preparation programs throughout the United States, and will also be a resource for states, policymakers, and those hiring literacy professionals. They are performance based and draw from professional expertise and research in the literacy field.

    Key shifts include the following:

    Title change: The title will change from Standards for Reading Professionals to Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals, reflecting the shift to incorporate all facets of literacy in ILA’s mission.

    Expanded and clarified roles: Standards 2017 delineates three roles of specialized literacy professionals: reading/literacy specialists, literacy coaches, and literacy supervisors/coordinators. The clarified roles intend to help preparation programs better meet candidates’ specific goals.

    The reading/literacy specialist’s primary role is to work with students who need specialized instruction or intervention and with peers to support tiered instruction; the literacy coach works with adults, leading adult professional learning at the team and school levels, supporting building-wide literacy learning. The supervisor/coordinator’s role is to lead the development and the evaluation of the school or district literacy program.   

    The other roles are classroom teachers, principals, teacher educators, and a new role, “literacy partners,” which includes allied professionals, teaching assistants, families, and community agencies. 

    More rigorous practicum experience: Standards 2017 will add a seventh standard: Practicum/Clinical Experiences. Candidates must engage with individual and groups of students across grade levels and also serve as “novice coaches” to support adult peers. They must work in at least one school-based setting, and receive observation and ongoing feedback by qualified supervisors.

    Greater focus on advocacy: Standard 4 is now named “Diversity and Equity” to reflect an increased focus on advocacy for learners from a wide variety of cultural, linguistic, and racial backgrounds, for inclusive and affirming classroom and school environments, and for equity at school, district, and community levels.

    Emphasis on digital learning: Standards 2017 aims to increase exposure to and use of digital technology in preparation program coursework. Candidates will be required to use a variety of print and digital materials and to integrate digital technologies in appropriate, safe, and effective ways.

    More support for collaborative learning: The word collaborative will appear often throughout Standards 2017 (e.g., “Candidates engage in collaborative decision making with colleagues to design, align, and assess instructional practices and interventions”). Programs may need to accommodate candidates engaging in and leading collaborative learning methods.

    Stronger partnerships: Several standards now have a component focused on fostering home–school and community partnerships. Coursework may incorporate more service learning projects while practicum experiences may incorporate community engagement activities.

    The revised Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) will go to Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) for feedback and, pending approval, will be published January 2018. All reading/literacy specialist educator preparation programs must adopt the new standards by spring 2020.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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