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    Reading Education Internationally

    By William H. Teale
     | Aug 23, 2018
    Reading Education InternationallyThe following was written by William H. Teale, a past president of the International Literacy Association, to provide an international perspective on reading education for the Japan Reading Association (JRA). It will be included in a commemorative book later this year produced by JRA to mark their 60th anniversary.

    It is reprinted here with JRA’s permission. Teale passed away unexpectedly in February 2018 shortly after completing it. It is the last piece he authored.

    2018 marks my 49th year as a reading teacher. I have experienced many developments in reading education in my home country of the United States during that time, and I have observed many other developments as a result of my opportunities to participate in conferences and work with ministries of education and literacy scholars in 25 other countries around the world, including every continent except for Antarctica. This range of experiences I have been fortunate to have was no doubt influenced by my involvement not only in reading education but also in the fields of library and information science, children’s and young adult literature, and adult education. It was also the result of my involvement as an academic and teacher in the field as well as an officer of the International Literacy Association (board member, vice president, president, past president) over a period of six years and an editor and editorial board member of numerous literacy journals in the field.

    I list this range of experiences so that you might better contextualize my remarks that follow, remarks intended to provide one international perspective on reading instruction. In doing so, I have not attempted to cover the past 60 years of reading education history which the Japan Reading Association is commemorating, but I do provide some historical context for what I see as major issues confronting us as reading educators who help build our societies by supporting our students in reading and writing so that they might participate as fully as possible as citizens of their countries and of the world.

    Thinking both in contemporary terms and historically, I believe it is fruitful to consider that some issues related to reading education are similar across international contexts while others are quite different. In addition, some issues that are important today have been on the minds of reading educators for decades, while other have emerged over the years as a result of social, technological, or political developments.

    Reading engagement (motivation to read)

    I begin with the topic of reading engagement because it serves as the foundation of reading instruction—at all levels of schooling and in every country in the world. If we are to have any hope at all of succeeding in literacy education, we must get this piece right. It has been well documented for many years that students who spend more time reading achieve better in reading (Anderson, et al., 1988). Why is it that some students read more? Because they are engaged by reading; they get satisfaction from it and find the time that they spend reading to be rewarding.

    Many people may think of this issue of engagement as “soft science” or touchy-feely. But you may be familiar with PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, the quantitatively rigorous international assessment that measures 15-year-old students’ reading, mathematics, and science achievement in 64 countries in the world (OECD, 2016). What PISA found about reading engagement is that students who enjoyed reading the most performed significantly better in achievement than students who enjoyed reading the least. This is strong evidence that backs up what all good teachers have seen time and time again in their classrooms: If we pay attention to instilling in students the love of reading, the task of teaching students how to read is made so much easier.

    The importance of quality literature

    This discussion of reading engagement brings us face to face with the issue of what students are assigned to read for school and what they read on their own. To promote reading engagement, we should be helping our students interact with quality literature—from preschool through high school. That means employing quality literature in the lessons we teach, making sure our school and classroom libraries are stocked with quality literature, recommending quality literature for students’ out-of-school reading, making homework assignments that involve quality literature, and providing parents with recommendations of quality literature that they can obtain for their children.

    Think of this as a dietary issue. Children and teenagers grow up healthy when they have a balanced diet of a variety of nutritious foods that supply needed vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Thoughtful minds are fed with a balanced diet of quality literature which includes stories, informational books, and other genres like concept books and poetry; print, digital, and audio books; books about people like them and situations that are familiar as well as books about people from other countries around the world who face a range of life circumstances different from their own; books with spectacular writing; and books with outstanding illustrations or photographs. In one essay I wrote, I went so far as to argue that without a literacy curriculum that includes high-quality literature, it is essentially impossible for students to become fully literate (see the May/June 2017 issue of the International Literacy Association’s publication Literacy Today).

    And though the books themselves may differ from country to country or perhaps even from region to region or city to city within a country, the need to have quality literature as an integral part of the literacy curriculum and instruction is universal. Quality literature should play an indispensable role in teaching children to read, no matter who the students are, how old they are, or where they come from.

    Effective methods for teaching reading

    We have now discussed two issues crucial to reading education that I have argued apply equally across societies and school systems. But, this issue—effective methods for teaching reading—is something that needs to be considered context by context. In the United States, for example, there has been much discussion over the past two decades about research-based, or evidence-based, methods for reading instruction. National panels have been convened by the U.S. Congress to have scholars review the research literature and determine empirically the most effective methods for teaching beginning reading (National Reading Panel, 2000), early literacy (National Early Literacy Panel, 2008), and English language learners (August & Shanahan, 2006). Each of these efforts resulted in conclusions about how to teach reading. But even these rigorous efforts to answer the question of what works instructionally for teaching reading have been questioned by other scholars who point out the failure of such conclusions to take into consideration findings from rigorous qualitative literacy research or contextual factors that have been shown to impact reading instruction and therefore student reading achievement (e.g., see the 2010, vol. 39, no. 4 issue of Educational Researcher).

    Now, consider the fact that this much dissension has occurred with respect to reading instruction in one language—English—and in one country. Small wonder, then, that when one looks at different languages, different writing systems, and different societal contexts, there can never hope to be consensus on what the most effective method is for teaching reading.

    Much of the research that I conduct focuses on how young children—ages 3 to 6—learn to read and write and can effectively be taught to read and write in an alphabetic language, English. With respect to reading, the most difficult (and therefore the most researched) phase of that process is beginning reading, the time when children learn to “crack the alphabetic code” and understand how the sounds of language relate to the letters and letter combinations of the English alphabet. I’ve even written a chapter for teachers on the complexities of these relationships (see chapter 2 of McKay & Teale, 2015). But I distinctly remember the first time I spoke with a group of Japanese teachers and parents about that work. They were surprised that this was an issue of concern in the United States. To them, that early phase of learning to read was easy. In their experience, even 4-year-olds and most 5-year-olds could figure out how to “decode” the words in simple picture books. But, of course, they were coming from the perspective of a culture with a very different orthography. Hiragana makes it much easier for young children to “crack the code” because it is based on the syllable, not on the much more—for young children—abstract phoneme, as many alphabetic orthographies are. The harder part of learning to read in Japanese comes with Kanji, which occurs much later developmentally for students in Japan than for students in the U.S.

    This is but one example illustrating the fact that, for reading educators, the issue of effective methods for teaching reading will always be inextricably tied to the national and local contexts in which the teaching is taking place. There is not, nor will there ever be, one right way of, or a most effective way of, or one best program for teaching reading and writing. Effective literacy instruction depends upon the wisdom of teachers applying what research indicates is effective and what their local classroom context dictates is needed to reach the children they see in front of them every day.

    Family involvement/community involvement

    The research is clear, consistent, and convincing: When schools succeed in working cooperatively with families, children experience academic and social benefits (Hill, et al., 2004: Jeynes, 2010). And these benefits include enhanced language and literacy for children. The strongest school–family partnerships work both ways. On the one hand, schools communicate with parents about their children’s literacy activities in school and about their progress in literacy. It is also important for the school to engage parents in discussions of how parents can support their children’s literacy learning at home. In the other direction, parents are welcomed into the school for the funds of knowledge and insights that they can bring. This may be special skills a parent has or knowledge about the community that would contribute to studies the children are engaged in or volunteer help in the school or classroom.

    But it is also clear that in different societies there are vastly different relations between parents and the schools their children attend. In the United States, most elementary schools are not very successful at working collaboratively with the parents of the children who attend their school or with the larger community in which the school is located. And, the higher up the grade levels one goes, the less parental involvement one finds. Compare this to the types of relations between the school and parents in Japan. This is an important conversation for the school to have: What are the most productive ways that we can engage our families and community? And such a conversation is most successful when both the teachers and the school leaders take part together.

    Digital literacies

    Computers have been used for instruction in schools for several decades now, but it is only within the past 10 years that digital technologies have profoundly affected reading and reading instruction. What has made the difference is the proliferation of multimedia texts—texts that contain not only print or print and illustration, but also sound and moving images. And our students not only “consume” these texts; they also produce them because of the widespread availability of multimedia authoring tools. I believe it is fair to say that these developments in digital technologies have literally redefined literacy itself and what it means to be literate (NCTE, 2013), significantly changing the way students read, write, and access information.
    Furthermore, I also believe that—ultimately—digital technologies will change human thinking. This change will happen in the way that the invention of writing changed human thinking. Before humans had writing, memory was a much more central—and needed—cognitive process. But with writing we had a system that enabled us to store ideas in a permanent way that accurately represented the message of the writer. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the changes in human thinking engendered by the invention of this tool—writing—took place over generations. And so it will be with digital literacy tools; we are only now at the very beginnings of their impact on literacy and on human thinking.

    A useful distinction can be drawn between digital skills and digital literacies (see Digital skills focus on how to use technological tools, whereas digital literacies are about the why, when, who, and for whom of such tools. What our students most need today is competencies related to digital literacies: to be able to critically assess digital texts (e.g., does that website contain credible information or is it biased and not factual?) and to compose digital texts that take into consideration the words, images, and sounds that will most effectively communicate with the audience they are addressing.

    The impact of digital literacies on school reading instruction first took hold with older students and has gradually affected younger and younger grade levels. Now even preschool and kindergarten children are involved regularly in digital literacies because the biggest game changer of all for younger children—the tablet and its touchscreen technology—has enabled them to participate in ways that keyboard access never did. There is much being debated about “screen time” for young children (Council on Communications and Media, 2016), but the reality is that children today are growing up in their home and school environments interacting with digital technologies on a regular basis.

    What this means is that teachers must now respond to the need to ensure that attention to digital literacies is embedded in all levels of literacy education and all curriculum subjects from preschool through high school. And, with respect to this topic, we need to think deeply about the different kinds of reading and writing that students do. When students need to read something deeply, many prefer to read print rather then something on screen. But, digital devices seem to be preferred for “quick” reading—news stories, social networking, looking up a piece of information. But, some texts are only available digitally. And more “buts” can be added as we think through the realities and educational implications of students’ literacy activities, considering also their reading and writing preferences. In the end, though, digital literacies is one of the most important instructional issues related to literacy, as well as being regarded by teachers as a “hot” topic (see results from the International Literacy Association’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report).


    I believe that the preceding five issues—reading engagement, quality literature, effective methods for teaching reading, family and community engagement, and digital literacies—are currently of universal importance to literacy educators and literacy scholars the world over. But they are also local issues in that the literacy educators of Japan need to address them in conjunction with their own contexts, which will inevitably be different from those in Poland, Argentina, Finland, or the United States. Moreover, the contexts within Japan—Urasa, Osaka, Takayama, Sapporo, Tokyo, and so forth—need to be taken into account in thinking about these topics of literacy education. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to literacy education that will serve our students well. High-quality literacy education that helps students be contributing citizens is today, as it has been for the past 60 years and many more, teaching the children we have in our classrooms, rather than any literacy curriculum.


    Anderson, R.C., Wilson, P.T., & Fielding, L.G. (1988). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school. Reading Research Quarterly, 23,285–303.
    August, D., & Shanahan, T. (2006). Developing literacy in second-language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    Council on Communications and Media. (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138(5), 1–6.
    Hill, N., et al. (2004). Parent academic involvement as related to school behavior, achievement, and aspirations: Demographic variations across adolescence. Child Development, 75(5), 1491–1509.
    Jeynes, W. (2010). Parental involvement and academic success. New York: Routledge. 
    McKay, R. & Teale, W. H. (2015). Not this but that: No more teaching a letter a week. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Company.
    National Council of Teachers of English. (2013). The NCTE definition of 21st century literacies. Available from
    National Early Literacy Panel (2008). Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Panel. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.
    National Reading Panel. (2000). Report of the national reading panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: NICHD & NIH.
    OECD. (2016). PISA 2015 results (Vol. 1: Excellence and equity in education. Paris: OECD Publishing. 

    William H. Teale, a past president of the International Literacy Association, was a professor of education, a university scholar, and the director of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Literacy (CFL). His contributions to the field were immeasurable. Read two of ILA’s tributes to Teale here and here.

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    ILA's Latest Brief Defines Contexts of Learning in a Digital Age

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 31, 2018
    July LLB

    Instead of relying on the latest device or app, administrators should leverage the expertise of teachers to sustain classrooms that reflect the contexts of learning encountered in the real world, according to ILA's latest brief, Improving Digital Practices for Literacy, Learning, and Justice: More Than Just Tools.

    In our increasingly technology-driven and globalized world, literacy instruction should prepare students to “produce, communicate, interpret and socialize with peers, adults and the broader world.” These skills require a mastery of written and spoken language as well as a familiarity with literary devices and rhetorical structures and must translate across digital and analog worlds.

    “Intentionally building time for these online and offline literacy practices allows students to see themselves as agents of change across settings,” says the brief.

    The brief discusses the importance of designing digital instruction that mirrors the kinds of work environments students will eventually encounter in their personal and professional worlds. This means a shift away from rote instructional practices, rooted in individual tools, and toward digital resources that inspire students to “make, play, design, hack and innovate.”  

    The brief also explores technology’s potential role in perpetuating power structures and widening achievement gaps. When students do not have access to digital tools and resources, they are denied valuable forms of production and amplification that help spotlight areas of necessary advocacy.

    “When school administrators take away students’ phones or tell them to put them away during class time, they are teaching implicit lessons about the kind of work environments these students are expected to enter. In this light, digital literacies are a matter of social justice.”

    Instead of trying to disrupt inequality with “expensive devices,” the brief suggests that administrators invest in teacher knowledge of the contexts of literacy learning. This approach empowers students to participate in authentic learning activities that prepare them for real-world demands.

    The brief closes with a list of limitations to what digital resources can do (i.e., act as a cure-all for legacies of inequity) and a set of next steps.

    Access the full brief here.

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

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    Judge Tosses Literacy Lawsuit in Detroit

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Jul 02, 2018

    rick-snyderAn unprecedented class action lawsuit filed on behalf of students in Detroit, MI, concerning their lack of access to equitable literacy instruction has been tossed by a U.S. District Court judge.

    The decision leaves ILA—one of several organizations to cosponsor an amicus brief in support of the litigation, which essentially declared literacy a constitutional right—disappointed, but with a renewed sense of purpose for why we must continue our mission to ensure equitable access to literacy for all students.

    The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, five students from the lowest-performing public schools in Detroit, alleged they have been denied access to literacy by being deprived of evidence-based instruction. They claimed that the school conditions to which they are subjected prevent literacy learning and therefore are in violation of their rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They alleged that these conditions are the result of decades of neglectful administration, inadequate support, and poor oversight on the part of state officials.

    The ruling, filed on June 29, questioned whether it is the responsibility of states to provide a “minimally adequate education” that ensures a child attains literacy.

    In the written opinion of Judge Stephen Murphy III, the answer was no, it is not.

    ILA, however, strongly disagrees.

    “The answer should, unquestionably, be yes,” argues Bernadette Dwyer, president of the ILA Board of Directors. “The right to read is a basic, inalienable human right. The ability to read enables an individual to function in society. It enriches the personal, social, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions of the individual.”

    The court agreed with that part.

    In his ruling, Murphy acknowledged that literacy is of “incalculable importance.”

    “As plaintiffs point out, voting, participating meaningfully in civic life, and accessing justice require some measure of literacy….Simply finding one’s way through many aspects of ordinary life stands as an obstacle to one who cannot read,” Murphy wrote. “But those points do not necessarily make access to literacy a fundamental right.”

    The judge pointed to a history of cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court has emphasized that the importance of a good or service “does not determine whether it must be regarded as fundamental.” Further, he stated that the plaintiffs failed to prove deliberate actions by the defendants—the governor of Michigan and several state education officials—that resulted in the current state of Detroit schools.

    Dwyer stresses that, despite the ruling, “we must continue to work toward the goal of an equitable education for all. Issues of equity, equality of opportunity, quality of instruction, and social justice should permeate all that we do to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn to read.”

    Douglas Fisher, immediate past president of the ILA Board of Directors, agrees.

    “We stand with the schoolchildren of Detroit in expressing our profound disappointment in the court’s ruling,” he says. “There is no quality education without literacy. We know this, and we also know that much work remains when it comes to delivering on equitable education. This decision only reinforces the work that lies ahead for literacy educators and advocates.”

    ILA had signed on to an amicus curiae brief in this case in 2017 to support the plaintiffs’ argument that literacy is a constitutional right, along with Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education, and the National Association for Multicultural Education.

    The plaintiffs announced their plan to appeal on Monday, so this is unlikely to mark the end in Detroit—or the end of defining literacy as a constitutional right. In fact, a similar lawsuit was recently filed in California.

    “Though disappointing, the ruling is hardly the end of this controversy,” says Dan Mangan, ILA’s director of Public Affairs, pointing out that literacy was a fundamental presence in the establishment of our country. “Although the founding fathers did not explicitly address education as a constitutional priority, they created a new republic by drafting documents whose content and stirring preambles were intended to inspire and guide generations to come.

    “Of course, these treasures and the entire Anglo-American edifice of written law mean nothing to the illiterate,” he continues. “We look for the day to come when the skills that brought forth such eloquence in Thomas Jefferson and others are fully and finally recognized as the indispensable frame for our identity as a people, and as a necessary component of our guaranteed rights.”

    Click here to read the full court decision.

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

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    Leaders React: Researchers and Leaders Tell Us What Stood Out to Them in the ILA 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Jul 02, 2018

    Six months have passed since we published our 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, and the results continue to shape our conversations and the resources we provide—from conference programming to Twitter chats, and from literacy briefs to Literacy Today.

    This year’s report included survey responses from more than 2,000 literacy professionals in 91 countries and territories, ranking issues in literacy in terms of how much attention they are currently receiving and how much they should be receiving.

    For the six-month mark, we asked literacy researchers and leaders to reflect on the results and tell us what stood out to them. Not surprisingly, many focused on equity in literacy education—which ranked as the second most important topic in the report. Responses also centered on early literacy, digital literacy, and professional development. Read on, and be sure to share your thoughts on social media by using the hashtag #ILAWhatsHot or by emailing us at

    fisher“I am very pleased to see the focus on equity in the What’s Hot report. We still have a long way to go to deliver on the promise of equity, and literacy educators are uniquely positioned to contribute in significant ways to equity efforts. To my thinking, equity must extend beyond cultural proficiency and include excellent literacy instruction such that all students realize their aspirations. After all, literacy opens the doors to all other content learning and is highly correlated with a quality life.” —Douglas Fisher, San Diego State University, ILA President of the Board

    young“The people have spoken: Early literacy is fundamental in our field, and I completely agree. Developing foundational skills such as phonics, fluency, and reading comprehension is paramount. Still, some students struggle with the basics and thus it is imperative that teachers possess effective and efficient strategies for differentiating instruction. Considering our dedication, resources, and over a century of research, it is shocking that we still struggle to reach all students. In order to adequately equip teachers, researchers should continue to focus on the development of various interventions that support diverse learners with the basics of reading. There is no silver bullet, so teachers need numerous (perhaps endless) options. We want all kids to experience success so that they are free to enjoy the aesthetics of reading and writing and effectively use literacy to navigate their worlds.” —Chase Young, Sam Houston State University 

    lapp“It isn’t surprising that early literacy captured the No. 1 most important spot for the second year in a row. Respondents realize the long-lasting impact that early literacy has on all subsequent learning, emotional development, workplace success, and earning potential. The No. 2 most important spot was the need for equity in literacy education. Couple these with the latest NAEP data and it becomes obvious that specific action needs to be taken to ensure equity in early literacy learning.

    “A few things that could happen immediately to promote early learning equity include: identifying specific factors that are part of programs identified as effective; providing equal funding across states and districts to support early literacy programs that contain these factors; hiring well-trained veteran teachers and administrators with proven track records of success working in high-risk districts who believe all children have the potential to learn and should be provided with instructional opportunities and materials to do so; and engaging families and caregivers with information about how health, attendance, and home engagement affect and promote early literacy learning.

    “I am concerned that more attention wasn’t placed on teacher preparation even though it was identified as important. I, of course, believe that without very strong teachers who are supported by their administrators, no instructional change can be possible. So I would like to see more teacher preparation programs uniting university professors and classroom teachers in partnerships where they design and coteach courses in school classrooms. This alliance will disrupt business as usual that often finds professors and teachers at odds about what instruction and learning constitutes. School and university partnerships that involve teachers, preservice teachers, and professors designing lessons and teaching collaboratively will result in new teachers having a more solid understanding of the importance of connecting with their students’ families and communities to understand how they learn, how to plan instruction, how to manage equitable environments, and how to use daily insights about each student to design his or her next day’s learning.” —Diane Lapp, San Diego State University, ILA Literacy Research Panel Chair

    castek“In a globalized world, it’s important to look broadly at trends in literacy education that extend beyond national policies and boundaries. Looking for common connections across countries paves the way for shared priorities, new connections, and valuable global partnerships.

    “I’m surprised that digital literacies was not identified as hotter and more important because of the importance digital interactivity plays in college and career readiness and in everyday life.  Gathering and content creation are a part of our everyday lives and literacy practices, yet they do not get as much attention in our classrooms as they should. In order for students to navigate the expanded learning environments that the internet makes possible, learners need more instruction and more experience in school—especially students who have limited access at home. Digital literacies instruction directly relates to equity issues nationally and globally.

    “The section that outlined themes that emerged across topics was really valuable. The five topics—Equity, Community–Literacy Connections, Excellence in Literacy Education, Personalizing Literacy Instruction, and Building 21st-Century Skills—provide a call to action for instruction, research, and policy and can be jumping-off points for discussion at the classroom, school, and university level.”—Jill Castek, University of Arizona

    ippolito“As always, I appreciate the What’s Hot in Literacy report as a way to test my own assumptions and understandings of what researchers, policymakers, and educators think are the most important issues facing literacy teaching and learning today. Without the report, it would be all-too-easy for me to falsely believe that my own research and teaching passions are shared equally across the field.

    “This year’s report confirmed some of my hunches and challenged others. For example, I was pleased to see equity in literacy education and teacher preparation among the top five most important topics this year. However, I was surprised that neither was considered a hot topic, particularly given our tumultuous past year in the United States around issues of equity, diversity, and social justice. Similarly, I was not surprised to see digital literacy as a hot topic, but I was surprised that it did not rank higher in importance (i.e., ranked 13th). Given the focus on ‘fake news’ in 2017–2018 as well as social media’s role in politics, I would have expected digital literacy to be ranked as both hot and important.

    “Personally, the three topics that I believe are most critical in 2018 are disciplinary literacy, professional learning, and administrators as literacy leaders. Each of these topics was rated as very or extremely important, but not equally hot. With the Common Core State Standards still in effect in most states, and with increased pressure to prepare students for competition in a global economy, advanced literacy skills are critically important. However, to promote disciplinary literacy, we need administrators to be prepared and supported in working as literacy leaders. ILA’s Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 clearly call for increased professional learning across all educator roles, with literacy leadership work being undertaken equally by teachers, specialists, coaches, and principals together.

    “If we are to move forward effectively, we need to work smarter, as literacy leadership teams, to design and support ongoing literacy professional learning to address these many hot and important topics.” —Jacy Ippolito, Salem State University

    dallhouse“I like that the report is representative of a diversity of opinions from the vantage points of educators from different countries who work in various capacities to teach and support the literacy development of students of multiple ages.

    “As the lead writer for Standard 4: Diversity and Equity in the ILA Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017, I am pleased with the recognition of the importance of equity in literacy instruction to address the achievement gap of students across all educational levels. I am hopeful that the No. 2 ranking in importance of this topic will lead to poignant discussions and strong advocacy efforts that result in greater priority given to instituting changes in educational policies and practices to improve student achievement and promote social justice." —Doris Walker-Dalhouse, Marquette University

    robertson“I was pleased to see the attention that both teacher preparation and professional development and learning have garnered in this year’s survey. Our teachers are our most important asset, and these are certainly topics that should be important and very hot. While resources are of course essential, if we want to create equitable contexts for literacy education, we need to consider (and continue to learn about) the types of sustainable preparation and professional learning opportunities that empower teachers to be agentive in helping all students get what they need academically, linguistically, culturally, and socially.

    “I’m surprised to see digital literacy falling out of favor. With the proliferation of technological advances and understandings of multimodal representations of knowledge, it seems schools are overly focused on using devices and programs for the sake of using them. With these rapid changes and the shifts toward more globalized economies, digital literacy should certainly be important, if not essential, to our advances in literacy education. We have important work to do with how these digital tools are used critically and with purpose to facilitate students’ abilities to process and produce texts, and to achieve personal, economic, and social fulfillment.”  —Dana Robertson, University of Wyoming

    aram“It is gratifying to read that early literacy is both hot and important. It is interesting that educators see its importance more so than researchers. Is it receiving enough investment? Do we have enough resources to explore it within the family where children develop?

    “Family involvement is important in the development of literacy. To promote this topic, there is a need for resources. It is easier to conduct lab studies or even to introduce literacy programs to kindergartens and schools. It is more difficult to involve family members in literacy interventions in a consistent manner.

    “Regarding teacher preparation, the gap between its perceived importance and how much the topic is considered hot is distressing. There is not enough connection between academia and the field. I am currently involved in efforts in various frameworks to make information accessible to those in the field, but there is much more to be done in this area.” —Dorit Aram, Tel Aviv University

    smith“We seem to agree that equity is important but we don’t seem to reflect this importance sufficiently in our work (i.e., equity is not on the ‘what’s hot’ list). Teachers can use insights about equity ratings to inform how they intentionally address issues of equity in literacy classrooms. Researchers can use findings about importance concerning administrators needing more literacy training to guide emerging literacy scholars’ research emphases.” —Patriann Smith, Texas Tech University

    kuhn“We know a great deal about the importance of developing young children’s oral language, vocabulary, and conceptual knowledge, as well as their ongoing benefits. However, to implement our knowledge in ways that will better ensure equity, we need to refocus our resources toward effective teacher preparation, professional learning and development, access to books and content, and other means of meeting students’ needs. The gap that exists between important and hot for these topics highlights the critical need to advocate for equitable funding across all our public schools.” —Melanie Kuhn, Purdue University

    dodge“It’s exciting to see equity issues ranked highly in both importance and what’s hot in 2018. Classroom teachers can use this information to bolster their advocacy and action toward equity and diversity in classrooms and push schoolwide initiatives promoting equity and diversity. Request funding for books with characters who have diverse backgrounds and experiences. Urge the purchase of books in native languages of EL students in your school and community. Push for professional development on having critical conversations about diversity through literacy. Teachers are on the front lines of making change in society. Keep advocating for equity!” —Autumn Dodge, University of Lynchburg

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the managing editor of Literacy Today.

    An abbreviated version of this article was first published in the July/August issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

    Click here to download ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report.

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    ILA Unveils Updated Standards for Literacy Professionals

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | May 15, 2018

    standards2017Published yesterday, the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) are the first-ever set of national standards guiding the preparation of literacy professionals.

    Drafted by a team of 28 literacy experts from across the United States, and led by project cochairs Rita M. Bean, University of Pittsburgh, PA, and Diane E. Kern, University of Rhode Island, the updated standards describe the characteristics of effective literacy professional preparation programs, integrating research-based promising practices, professional wisdom, and feedback from various stakeholders during public comment periods.

    Last updated in 2010, the title reflects ILA’s expanded definition of literacy beyond reading. Standards 2017 promotes a broader repertoire of skills—achieved through more rigorous field work, digital learning, and equity-building practices, among other key changes—ensuring that all candidates are prepared to meet the demands of 21st-century literacy instruction.

    Standards 2017 sets forth a common vision of what all literacy programs should look like—and hands institutions a road map to get there,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “This is an important step toward ensuring that all literacy professional preparation programs and practicing literacy professionals provide the foundational tools needed to deliver high-quality literacy instruction.”

    Although the category of specialized reading professional was introduced 20 years ago, there remained some confusion about the various roles and responsibilities. Standards 2017 delineates three roles of specialized literacy professionals—reading/literacy specialists, literacy coaches, and literacy supervisors/coordinators—explaining the differences between and among the roles, clarifying expectations and enabling preparation programs to meet more specific goals.

    Standards 2017 also revises guidance for the roles of principals, teacher educators and literacy partners and provides literacy-specific standards for classroom teachers for pre-K/primary, elementary/intermediate and middle/high school levels, ensuring that literacy practices are infused in all areas of the curriculum.

    Reading and literacy specialist preparation programs that elect to participate and whose scope and rigor meet the criteria outlined in Standards 2017 will be eligible to apply for the ILA Certificate of Distinction for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals (ILA CoD), which will help them to continually expand and improve their literacy programs, secure resources for improvement and attract applicants. ILA plans to expand the CoD program to include other roles at a later date.  

    Learn more at

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

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