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    ILA Offers Guidelines for Integrating Digital Technologies Into Early Literacy Education

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Apr 23, 2019
    april-llb

    Although digital technologies are widely per­vasive in homes, schools, and communities, there remains little consensus about how they should be used in early childhood literacy education. A new brief released by the International Literacy Association (ILA), Digital Resources in Early Childhood Literacy Development, seeks to create a set of common guidelines for evaluating screen time.

    As the meaning of reading and writing continues to evolve, there is an urgent need to “link play and literacy to the multimodal opportunities offered by new digital media,” says ILA.

    “The wealth of often conflicting information around the use of digital tools in literacy instruction has only led to more confusion and has stirred valid concerns regarding quality, safety, and overconsumption,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Drawing on the latest research and with these concerns in mind, we created a formula for balanced technology integration.”

    The brief highlights the social and academic benefits of high-quality digital technologies, such as stronger pathways for language learning, multimodal meaning making, and home–school connections. ILA maintains that—when judiciously selected and intentionally used—digital texts and tools can build children’s literacy and communication skills while preparing them for long-term academic success.

    ILA offers four guidelines for making decisions about how best to integrate digital technologies into early childhood contexts, including blending the use of digital and nondigital resources and building home–school connections, with concrete steps for accomplishing each, such as acting as media mentors for caregivers who may not be aware of quality interactive media resources.

    Access the full brief here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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    ILA Highlights Benefits of Reading Practice and Volume

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jan 31, 2019
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    In an era of technological distractions, instilling a love of reading in students has become increasingly difficult for teachers. The solution, according to a new brief from the International Literacy Association (ILA), is deceptively simple: Give students control over their reading lives through independent reading.

    In Creating Passionate Readers Through Independent Reading, the organization draws on research that demonstrates how independent reading builds student competence, confidence, and joy.

    “We have decades of studies proving the power of independent reading,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “It’s why we advocate for independent reading that is truly independent.”

    Post describes independent reading as an activity driven by student selection and motivation that’s free from assessment and accountability, but not support. ILA’s definition of independent reading includes the important role teachers play in the practice, such as offering suggestions about text selection based on students' self-identified interests, initiating conversations with students about what they’re reading, and facilitating similar discussions among peer groups.

    To heighten reading motivation, ILA recommends that educators not only ensure choice, but also provide texts that reflect topics of interest and stories that are representative of all students in the classroom and beyond. An added benefit? Diverse and inclusive classroom libraries help foster a love of reading.

    Due to increased emphasis on test preparation, assigned reading, and other curricular requirements, many teachers struggle to carve out time for quality independent reading. But, as ILA points out, when independent reading isn’t prioritized or encouraged in the classroom, students miss out on important benefits, such as improved reading stamina, vocabulary, and background knowledge.

    Additionally, teachers lack valuable opportunities to coach, instruct, provide feedback, and assess the effectiveness of independent reading.

    The brief includes a list of takeaways to help educators boost student interest in and engagement with books.

    Access the full text here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of
    Literacy Daily. 

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    How Our Teaching Can, and Must, Honor Our Students' Rights to Read

    By Jennifer Serravallo
     | Oct 17, 2018
    Honoring Students' Rights to Read

    ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read gives me teacher goosebumps. And this is why:

    Children walk into our classrooms with all of themselves. They are the sum of their experiences and their expectations. We cannot ask them to leave any part of themselves at the door when the bell rings. Rather, we must embrace their entirety.

    So, how can we do this as reading teachers?

    We can carve out time every day for them to read (Right 1). And not just time, but a high volume of uninterrupted time (Right 7). We can curate a classroom library from which they are free to browse and select titles (Right 2).

    We can reveal to them what to watch for in the books they choose so they can deepen their comprehension, better understand the content, and have their own thoughts and interpretations about what they read. Comprehension helps make the reading experience enjoyable and fully realized (Right 5).

    As reading teachers, we know how important it is to do more than focus on the book; we have to focus on our readers. We talk to our students, we seek to understand them and their interests, passions, and reading histories. We make sure our classroom and school libraries are not only a mirror of their lives and identities, but also a window into parts of the world they have not yet ventured (Rights 3 and 4).

    Reading is social and thus we must give students the chance to recommend titles, react to their reading by talking with friends, and talk about how they’re living differently because of the things they have read (Right 8).

    When students talk to us, they should know that we are helping them read any book better, not just the one book they have in their hands in the moment we confer with them (Right 6). Speaking of conferring, we must give students our individual time and attention as we guide them toward stronger reading habits and skills.

    And what is the point of reading anyway, unless it’s enjoyable? Reading helps us learn about our world so we can cultivate new thinking and share our ideas and opinions with others (Right 9). When we invest in developing our own knowledge around texts and engage as regular readers of children’s literature, we are better able to teach in a way that is generalizable book to book (Right 10).

    When our teaching is specific, clear, and transferrable, we can ensure that we are supporting our students’ reading lives well beyond the precious days we work with them in our classrooms. When we honor our students’ reading lives and tailor our instruction to meet them where they are, we are preserving not only their rights to read but also their right to lay claim to the world around them.

    The Children’s Rights to Read initiative, launched by ILA to ensure every child has access to the education, opportunities and resources needed to read, focuses on 10 rights essential for individuals to reach full personal, social and educational potential. The global campaign asserts and affirms ILA’s commitment to its mission of literacy for all and offers a framework for partnerships and action. To learn more and sign the pledge to support the Rights, visit literacyworldwide.org/rightstoread.

    Jennifer Serravallo is a literacy consultant, speaker, and the author of several popular titles including The New York Times bestselling The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers (Heinemann) and The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers (Heinemann). Her latest publication, Understanding Texts & Readers: Responsive Comprehension Instruction with Leveled Texts (Heinemann), connects comprehension goals to text levels and readers responses. Upcoming publications include A Teacher's Guide to Reading Conferences(early 2019) and Complete Comprehension, which is a revised and reimagined whole book assessment and teaching resource based on the award-winning Independent Reading Assessment (due in spring 2019). She was a senior staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and taught in Title I schools in New York City. Tweet her @jserravallo.

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    ILA Advocates for Student-Centered Model of Data Collection and Interpretation

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Oct 16, 2018
    Beyond the Numbers

    Rather than being shaped by accountability policies and requirements, student learning goals and needs should be the driving force behind what data are collected and how they are used.

    When centered on students’ unique needs, data can serve as a portrait, a highlighter, and a springboard to enhance student learning and inform instructional decision making, according to ILA’s latest brief, Beyond the Numbers: Using Data for Instructional Decision Making.

    Educators should view students as key sources of their own learning data, asserts ILA.

    “We’re moving away from the idea that data equal obligatory test scores and percentages,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “The most powerful sources of data are the unique experiences students have in the classroom.”

    Snapshot data, such as test scores, are often used incorrectly to categorize or label students by their abilities, according to ILA. Data should include a wide range of information, such as formative assessments, student engagement observations, student oral responses, and knowledge of students’ backgrounds, to provide a fuller portrait of students’ strengths and needed areas of support.

    Examining discrepancies and patterns across multiple forms of data can illuminate equity concerns and allow for a more truthful picture of student learning. When analysis leads to uncertainty about next steps or solutions, data act as a springboard, prompting further inquiry and investigation.

    The brief concludes with five actionable steps for using data to support instructional improvements.

    Access the full brief here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    ILA's New Brief Unpacks the 2017 NAEP Reading Results

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 24, 2018

    August LLBIn a new brief, the International Literacy Association (ILA) unpacks the 2017 reading scores released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) earlier this year.

    Commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card,” NAEP results provide a reliably accurate barometer of national academic achievement over time. Results from the 2017 reading assessment show that fourth and eighth graders in the United States have made little to no gains since 2015, continuing the trend of flat achievement in this area. The brief reviews the various suggestions for addressing this problem put forward at the release of the 2017 NAEP results and discusses systemic approaches to improving reading comprehension.

    The brief emphasizes the significance of district and school leadership, funding, community engagement and formative assessment in improving student outcomes in reading. Topping the to-do list are teacher buy-in and a focus on internal communication and organizational structures.

    “Too many schools are buckling under the weight of top-down, underfunded, and poorly communicated initiatives that don’t translate into day-to-day changes,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “We need to see stronger infrastructures for implementation that support collaboration within and across schools and districts.”

    Other recommendations include developing a “staircase curriculum” that builds year to year and cultivating a shared vision of the “excellent reader.”

    Access the full brief here.

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