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    ILA Releases 2020 Choices Reading Lists

    By ILA Staff
     | May 01, 2020

    Choices Combined CoverThe International Literacy Association (ILA) released today its much-anticipated Choices reading lists, composed of titles selected by students and educators across the United States as the most outstanding books published in 2019.

    The release coincides with Children’s Book Week, a yearly celebration that encourages children to embrace the power of reading for pleasure. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s program has been reimagined to ensure the celebrations continue at home and online.

    “In a time where teachers, families, and students are all hungry for ways to stay engaged in literacy and learning, reading provides the perfect outlet,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Reading for pleasure is something we can all do.”

    Each Choices project is run by volunteer team leaders who distribute thousands of newly released books to classrooms; recruit participants to read, review and vote on their favorites; and annotate the final selections.

    Across projects, approximately 25,000 children and young adults are involved in the process of selecting the books that had the biggest impact on them as readers.

    In turn, hundreds of teachers, librarians, and reading/literacy specialists choose books that help to inform curricula; build strong classroom libraries; introduce their students to new, high-quality works; and impart a lifelong love of reading.

    The 2020 Choices reading lists, including titles and annotations, can be found and downloaded for free at literacyworldwide.org/choices.

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    U.S. Appeals Court in Detroit Schools Case Says Basic Literacy Instruction Is a Civil Right

     | Apr 27, 2020
    Rick Snyder
    Rick Snyder, governor of Michigan
    at the time of the lawsuit filing

    In a historic ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Thursday that a basic minimum education, “one that can plausibly impart literacy,” is a fundamental right protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    The Circuit Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part, the Federal District Court’s decision in Gary B. et al. v. Snyder et al. (now Whitmer et al.), the class action suit filed in 2016 against Detroit city schools, the Michigan governor, and a number of state officials on behalf of Detroit’s public school students.

    There were several key findings and holdings in the Circuit Court’s two-to-one decision:

    • Courts have an obligation to recognize a right that is foundational to our system of self-governance and literacy is such a right
    • The role of basic literacy education in the broader framework of the U.S. Constitution suggests that it is essential to the exercise of other fundamental rights
    • Denials of education remedied in past civil rights cases are now universally accepted as serious injustices and have revealed the unparalleled value assigned to literacy as the key to opportunity
    • Although courts cannot prescribe specific educational outcomes, such as literacy or proficiency rates, a state must ensure that students are afforded a rudimentary infrastructure within which literacy can be attained
    • The contours of this infrastructure must at least include three basic components: facilities, teaching, and educational materials such as books

    Marcie Craig Post, executive director of the International Literacy Association (ILA), applauded the decision, which is a major legal breakthrough for literacy advocates. “Literacy is the basic skill through which all other learning is acquired,” she noted, “and governments everywhere have an obligation to provide the basic educational supports reasonably necessary for all citizens to attain it.”

    Post also emphasized that ILA, which signed on to the amicus curiae brief in Gary B. along with other educational organizations, will continue to support efforts to get the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court. A favorable ruling there would become the law of the land.

    Unique theory of action

    What makes the legal argument in Gary B. unique is its focus on literacy as opposed to general educational attainment, a theory of action that has not proved successful in prior cases. The plaintiffs sought a judgment that access to basic literacy instruction should be accorded the status of a federal civil right and offered evidence that the state of Michigan had denied it to them.

    The evidence included deteriorated and vermin-infested school buildings, high rates of teacher turnover, lack of instructional materials, and low performance on academic measures. The plaintiffs argued that without basic literacy skills, meaningful participation as citizens in the democratic process is not achievable.

    There is as yet no U.S. Supreme Court ruling establishing that access to effective literacy instruction is a constitutionally protected right. However, should the Gary B. litigation ever reach the Supreme Court, such a ruling could come.

    For now, the right has been established in the Sixth Circuit, whose precedent binds the district courts of federal districts within Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

    In remanding the case to the trial court, the Sixth Circuit also made additional rulings, one of which directs the trial judge to grant the class action plaintiffs leave to amend their denial of equal protection claim, which the court affirmed was not adequately pled. This step could open the door to further constitutional precedent down the line, assuming the plaintiffs can meet their burden of proof.

    Dan Mangan is the director of Public Affairs at the International Literacy Association.

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    Remembering Past President Roselmina “Lee” Indrisano

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Apr 23, 2020

    Indrisano_w350Roselmina “Lee” Indrisano, who served our organization as president from 1986 to 1987, died earlier this week.

    A past fellow of the National Conference on Research in English and editor of Journal of Education—the oldest education journal in the United States—Indrisano was a widely recognized scholar, particularly when it came to issues related to early literacy development and enhancement of struggling readers and their families.

    This is the second hit for our literacy community this week, as the sad news was received just one day after hearing of the passing of past president Dorothy S. Strickland.

    Indrisano was professor emerita at Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, where she received the university’s Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching as well as the university’s Teacher-Scholar Award. In addition to being inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame in 1990, she served as the organization’s president from 1993 to 1994.

    Indrisano did not wish for her passing to be formally recognized, as was in line with her humble nature. However, we wanted to share with permission the tribute that was sent to the Reading Hall of Fame community by Indrisano’s close friend and colleague Jeanne Paratore, professor emerita, Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

    It is with a very heavy heart that I write to say that our colleague, Lee Indrisano, has passed away. Many of you knew Lee as a remarkable scholar, a trusted and loyal friend, and a model of grace, elegance, and thoughtfulness. Lee was a teaching exemplar, bringing all that she knew about research in teaching and learning to its practice, whether in an advanced graduate seminar or a tutorial with a first grader.

    Her relentless pursuit of excellence extended well beyond teaching and learning to all of her professional endeavors. We saw it when she hosted a conference for thousands of participants, a meeting for 20, or a dinner party for 12. We even saw and heard her commitment to excellence in her personal style, in her attention to every detail of her appearance, in the words she spoke, and in the manner in which she spoke them. For me, she was all of this and, in addition, a truly incredible mentor and the most loving, generous, and loyal friend anyone could hope to have. I will miss her deeply, but I am comforted by the knowledge that she lives on in the work of so many others who were so lucky to have been touched by her.

    While Lee did not want us to formally recognize her passing, her niece and nephews have spent these last days thinking about all of the things that Lee loved doing in her healthier years. One thing that stood out for them was Lee’s love of giving books, especially children’s books, to them, to their children, and to the many, many children she reached through her professional work.

    Lee’s niece, Alison (Indrisano) Wagner, is a volunteer with an organization in Tampa [Florida] called Kay’s Ministry. Kay’s serves the homeless and very needy in the city of Tampa and in a migrant community called Wimauma. In honor of Lee, Alison plans to purchase backpacks and children’s books for each of the Wimauma children. The children love to read. Books in English and Spanish are always scooped up when they are donated. The libraries are currently closed, which has greatly impacted the children.

    If you would like to assist Alison in this campaign, you can send your favorite children’s book or a donation (check made out to Kay’s Ministry) to Alison. Her address is:

    Alison Wagner
    509 Manns Harbor Drive
    Apollo Beach, FL 33572

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the managing editor of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    A Woman of Influence and Grace: ILA Remembers Past President Dorothy S. Strickland

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Apr 22, 2020

    Dorothy StricklandDorothy S. Strickland, a renowned advocate of equitable literacy instruction and of improving the quality of teacher education programs and professional development, passed away earlier this week at the age of 86.

    Her influence in education extended far and wide. She served as president of the International Reading Association (IRA, now ILA) from 1977 to 1978 and also as president of the Reading Hall of Fame from 1997 to 1998. She served on several prominent task forces and committees, including the National Early Literacy Panel and the Common Core State Standards Validation Committee.

    As P. David Pearson, a fellow titan of the field, said: “Dorothy was a doer.”

    “She came to the table to get the work done,” said Pearson, emeritus faculty member in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. “She didn’t walk away when things didn’t always go exactly the way she wanted them to. I am sure that her determination to finish the work, along with her collaborative disposition and her wisdom about policy and practice, were the reasons she was in such high demand as a member of these national panels.” 

    Another word used to describe Strickland: grace.

    “Dorothy Strickland was a lady of brilliance, grace, and courtesy,” said Diane Lapp, chair of ILA’s Literacy Research Panel. “Above all, Dorothy always had her focus on what was the best and most equitable instruction for all children, while also staying equally attentive to the preparation of their teachers and administrators. The literacy world has lost one of its giants.”

    A pioneer in many respects

    Strickland’s career began in 1955 as a fourth-grade teacher. One of the things she valued most was ongoing learning, and she lived by example. She went on to be a reading consultant and learning disabilities specialist, to earn her master’s and doctorate, and to teach courses in reading, language arts, and children’s literature. She taught at Kean College of New Jersey, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. She made sure that her work took her away from campus and into schools across the United States so she could remain entrenched in the everyday challenges faced by teachers and administrators and work with them on their professional development efforts.

    She added several awards to her name, including National-Louis University Ferguson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Early Childhood Education, IRA’s Outstanding Teacher Educator of Reading Award, and the William S. Gray Citation of Merit—our organization’s highest honor.

    Strickland was an especially beloved literacy advocate in New Jersey, where she dedicated much of her career to the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education and served as the inaugural Samuel DeWitt Proctor Professor of Education.

    Proctor was the first African American to have a professorship named in his honor at Rutgers, making it fitting for Strickland, also a pioneering African American educator, to be the first bestowed with the title.

    Strickland was the first African American president of IRA when she served the organization in the 1970s, a time when the field was largely dominated by white men, and she did not take this position lightly. Along with her many contributions to the field, she served as an inspiration for countless women, particularly those of color, who followed in her footsteps.

    One in particular was Patricia Edwards, who served as president of IRA from 2010 to 2011.

    “In 1978, while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I had the opportunity to attend the Great Lakes Regional Conference,” said Edwards, a professor at Michigan State University. “I had never seen a person of color on the big stage. When I first saw Dorothy on the center stage, I decided that I wanted to follow in her footsteps by becoming a leader in the organizations that focused on literacy.”

    Edwards added that when she went on to become the first African American president of the National Reading Conference (now the Literacy Research Association) and later president of IRA, Strickland—who had become her friend and great mentor—was right there to cheer her on.

    “Dorothy was not only a great mentor but also she made significant contributions to the field of literacy research. Her 1994 seminal article, ‘Educating African American Learners at Risk: Finding a Better Way,’ had an indelible impact on my research agenda,” Edwards said. “Dorothy’s integrity and her scholarship inspired many people. She impacted the lives of  her students not only as a teacher but also as a counselor, mentor, and friend.”

    Rutgers is where Strickland become a close colleague and friend of Lesley Mandel Morrow, distinguished professor and director of the Center for Literacy Development at the university.

    “Dorothy was an inspiration for me and others,” Morrow said. “We worked together on research projects, books, and articles. We edited an early literacy column in The Reading Teacher journal for several years. I learned so much from Dot and feel very fortunate I was able to work with her.

    “Dorothy is one of those people that you think will always be there,” she added. “She was and always will be an icon in the literacy community.”

    Shelley B. Wepner, dean of the School of Education at Manhattanville College in New York, referred to Strickland as her “ultimate role model.” She said with Strickland, every conversation turned into a discussion about the latest research on literacy and what was and still needed to be achieved to help children develop into readers and writers.

    “To say that she was passionate about literacy for all is an understatement. She lived and breathed literacy and did extraordinary things on behalf of our profession because of her influential advocacy across the nation,” Wepner said.

    Strickland’s influence reached far beyond the professional realm. Many commented on how she touched their lives personally, including Morrow, who said she borrowed Strickland’s “shameless grandma” persona when she too become a grandmother. She added that no professional accomplishment for Strickland could compare to how proud she was to be a mother and grandmother.

    Lee Galda, the Sidney and Marguerite Henry Professor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature, Emerita, at the University of Minnesota, echoed those sentiments.

    “Dorothy was a wonderful woman, both personally and professionally,” Galda said. “Dot also helped me learn how to combine being a scholar with being a wife and mother. She was one of those special people who handled life with grace and dignity, who made others feel respected and cared for.”

    Nancy Roser, distinguished teaching professor at the University of Texas at Austin, called Strickland “a woman for whom superlatives are made.”

    She was “a leader in literacy, an expert in young children, an advocate for equity and opportunity,” Roser said. “A wife, mom, friend, teacher, writer extraordinaire, who entered a field dominated by male icons and carried the banner for women scholars, people of color, and especially for children, advocating access to literacy in preschools, homes, and classrooms everywhere.”

    A powerhouse reputation

    One of Strickland’s frequent collaborators was Timothy Shanahan, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    “In all the work we did together and all of the hundreds of hours that we spent together, you’d think that I could describe her complex of personality features and professional capacities. But when I think about Dot, only one word comes to mind: grace,” Shanahan said. “She envisioned a world in which everyone was fully included and valued. She was always looking for the choice, decision, or policy that all could share. She treated everyone with respect and that meant she wanted to hear their position and tried to see their point of view.”

    But “that doesn’t mean she never held anyone’s feet to the fire,” Shanahan recalled. “Oh, she could be tough, but that was never her starting point. She always gave you a chance to see your own shortcomings and to be reasonable before she’d go there. I watched many a passionate hardcase melt when confronted with her thoughtful questioning and her grace. I miss her.”

    That fierce side of her personality came down to her advocacy for equity both in classroom instruction and in teacher education. Strickland had a reputation as a powerhouse when it came to recognizing the connection between student achievement and quality teacher preparation programs. She also knew that preparation didn’t end with the earning of a degree, and as such, continued learning opportunities needed to be improved as well.

    “Dorothy knew student learning was tightly linked to teacher learning,” Pearson said. “So she focused her energy on improving the quality of teacher education—by providing more rigorous and more empowering teacher learning in both preservice credential programs and professional development settings.”

    That impact, felt across the United States and worldwide, especially leaves a hole at Rutgers, where Strickland was a teacher and mentor to countless doctoral students and other literacy professionals.

    Wanda Blanchett, dean of the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education, like many others referred to Strickland as a giant of the profession when she announced her passing in a notice to the faculty.

    “Dr. Strickland will be missed by all of us fortunate enough to have known her,” Blanchett said. “However, her legacy of literary advocacy and excellence, along with her many scholarly and professional contributions, will inspire generations of students, educators, and scholars for many years to come.”

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the managing editor of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    International Literacy Association Seeks Nominations For Next 30 Under 30 List

    By ILA Staff
     | Apr 02, 2020

    30 Under 30 logo
    The International Literacy Association (ILA) is accepting nominations for its next list of 30 Under 30 literacy leaders. Launched in 2015, the program recognizes young innovators, disruptors, and visionaries whose work is helping to shape the future of literacy education and advocacy.

    Previous honorees include Allister Chang, founder of Civic Suds and former executive director of Libraries Without Borders; Gerald Dessus, a Philadelphia, Pa.-based social justice educator; Marley Dias, founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks; and Francis Jim Tuscano, edtech coach at Xavier School in the Philippines and founder of the Online Global Innovation Camp.

    “At ILA, we are committed to investing in emerging leaders,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “We share their stories because they demonstrate the impact this next generation has on the future of literacy and literacy instruction across the world.”

    Nominations are open to all whose work impacts the literacy landscape—including classroom educators, administrators, librarians, preservice teachers, nonprofit founders, volunteers, and more—who are under 30 years old (as of March 1, 2021) and are making outstanding contributions to the field.

    The 30 Under 30 Nomination Form must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 1, 2020.

    The next 30 Under 30 class will be featured in the January/February 2021 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine, and across ILA’s platforms. Each honoree will receive a complimentary ILA membership, be recognized at an ILA conference, and join a dynamic network of champions who are connected by their shared vision of advancing literacy for everyone, everywhere.

    Find more information about the program, including past honorees, on our 30 Under 30 website.

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