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    ILA Appreciates Teachers

    By Wesley Ford
     | May 07, 2020

    Student making heart shapeI’ve worked at the International Literacy Association (ILA) for many a year now, and during that time, I’ve worked with educators of all ilk, from researchers to principals, librarians to preservice teachers. I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of educators across various ILA events and annual conferences. Amazing and dedicated professionals who want nothing but the best for learners all of ages. The ingenuity and tenacity of educators never ceases to amaze me, and nothing has brought that to the forefront more than the previous months as schools and teaching programs were forced to shift—at an unreasonable speed no less—to a new format.

    As strange and trying as these times are, I have nothing but confidence in the future of schools and education because I know from firsthand experience that educators rise to any challenge and do what’s right for students.

    From my colleagues

    This being Teacher Appreciation Week, we at ILA thought it an appropriate time to express our appreciation for all of you, and so here are few shout-outs and well wishes I collected from my colleagues.

    “A special education teacher doing her absolute best”

    “Big shout-out to my sister—a special education teacher doing her absolute best to help her students remotely while assisting her older daughter with her remote schooling, AND chasing a 4-year-old around!”

    —Daralene Irwin, Front-end Web Developer + Content Manager 

    “This teacher is a real inspiration”

    “I have nothing but respect and blessings for the third-grade teacher my grandson is lucky to have.  Mr. Paul Sedacca from McVey Elementary School here in Newark, DE, has gone above and beyond.  He is doing 5-days-a-week online learning for 18 third graders for two hours.  This week, he is starting small-group learning for 3–4 students at a time, each day, right before regular online classes start.  He has even asked the parents if they feel their child needs a one-on-one at any time.  My grandson has real potential for doing good work and his teacher encourages him to excel even more.  This teacher is a real inspiration, and the school and students are very fortunate to have such a dedicated teacher.”

    —Peggy DiMaio, Registration & Housing Manager 

    (To which I will add: ILA has a close professional relationship with McVey Elementary through the McVey/Delaware project, and I have been to visit the school a few times over the years [a friend of mine from high school works there!] and all the teachers are just amazing. As is David Wilkie, McVey’s principal, who was recognized with the Corwin Literacy Leader award in 2017 for his work in building a culture of literacy in his school.. So there’s my shout-out to everyone over at McVey; I hope you are all doing well! Now back to everyone else.)

    “Helps them get the wiggles out by dancing together”

     “I would be happy to give a shout-out to [my son] Landon’s teacher, Mrs. Debbie Ortiz, at Christ the Teacher Catholic School in Newark, DE. Although remote learning has taken quite a lot of getting used to for many parents, I am so thankful for the video lessons, personalized student shout-outs, requests for pictures, and read-aloud videos that are keeping Landon and the other first graders engaged during these challenging times. Mrs. Ortiz has the class gather each Thursday and pray as a class and share experiences from their week, and helps them to get the wiggles out by dancing together. She is even taking them on a virtual field trip to Washington, DC, this Friday.

    Even though this time is very stressful for parents, it is also taking a toll on the students. Landon is looking forward to rejoining his classmates for a new school year (hopefully in September).”

    Angela Rivell, Program Manager

    “Urged and prodded me to write”

    “Let me tell you about my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Tomlinson, who urged and prodded me to write. He took an assignment I did for him and submitted it to Reader’s Digest without my knowing. The piece won second place in a national competition and I was forever convinced that maybe, just maybe, I could write. “ —Marcie Craig Post, Executive Director 

    “Always checking in…and cheering him from afar”

    “My 4-year-old son has been at an early childhood center since he was 12 weeks old. As a working mother, I am very conscious of the fact that, Monday through Friday, he spends more waking hours at his school than he does at home with his dad and me. We are enormously grateful for the teachers he’s been lucky enough to have. Teachers who really know him and know how to bring out the best in him. Teachers who nurture his interests, no matter how quirky—the joy on my child’s face when Ms. Erica gave him a bucket full of keys and let him try them in every lock in the classroom!—and who nurture his social-emotional development. Teachers who encourage his love of reading and art and science. It’s been almost two months since his school closed due to our state’s stay-at-home order, but Ms. Kelly is always checking in, sending links to activities she knows he’ll enjoy, and cheering him from afar. It’s a sad fact that, in this country, early childhood educators are undervalued. But to us, they are family, and we love and miss them every single day.” —Lara Deloza, Director of Brand Content and Communications

    My own story

    And now it’s my turn, I suppose. I’ve had so many great teachers during the years, but one forever stands out in my memory. I was in small grade school, and we had two reading groups: the normal group and the advanced group. I was the only student in both groups. I could understand the concepts of the stories if they were read to me, but I struggled with reading. Word sounds didn’t come naturally to me, and I still have issues reading aloud text. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Dapkis, recognized my issues and worked with my parents to get me additional tutoring outside of school.

    Without that extra help, I undoubtedly would have fallen further behind in school (so also a big thank you to my parents). I went from barely being able to read Snoopy comics to devouring chapter books within a couple years. And from there, the reader, writer, and editor working at ILA.

    To all the teachers out there, words cannot express the positive effect you have on your students. Thank you. A million times, thank you!

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    Literacy Today Transitions to Digital-Only Format

    By Marcie Craig Post
     | May 07, 2020

    Literacy Today cover imageIt’s never been clearer that everyone—students and educators—need additional and improved access to digital learning opportunities.

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the sudden and unprecedented transition to remote learning, ILA made relevant digital content from our library of resources available free to both members and nonmembers.

    But we wanted to do more. We wanted to institute positive, meaningful change to help meet your needs not just now but also moving forward indefinitely.

    In April, we reopened access to six of the most popular sessions livestreamed from the ILA 2019 Conference. We launched our first ILA Edcamp Online. We introduced ILA at Home, a new series of webinars free for ILA members, that kicked off on May 3 with Timothy Shanahan. A second with Donalyn Miller is scheduled for May 31.  

    Our next change: Literacy Today, your member magazine, is going all digital. This will begin with the May/June issue, scheduled to publish next week.

    Why this change?

    In this period of challenges, ILA recognizes the need to expand and improve upon the digital assets we already offer. By transitioning Literacy Today to a digital-only magazine, we can strengthen this member resource and unlock its potential. We won’t be limited by page counts or postal service. We can begin to experiment with embedded videos and other features. Perhaps most important: We can further extend the reach of the magazine into regions where print isn’t possible.

    Literacy Today, in its 30-plus–year history, has helped build the community that is ILA. That will not change. This is still your magazine. It is driven by your needs, your feedback, and your content contributions. That also will not change.

    In addition to the digital events mentioned previously, ILA is developing new, high-quality resources in line with today’s needs. This includes new member benefits designed to help keep you current on what’s going on in the field. Look for more information on those in the coming months.

    In the meantime, I invite you to continue to let us know what additional resources you’d like to see—the topics, the formats, and everything in between.

    We will get through this time of uncertainty together, and we will be stronger because of it.

    Together, we will shape the future of literacy.

    Marcie Craig Post is the executive director of the International Literacy Association.

    For those whose membership included a subscription to the print version of the magazine (Regular Members, Student Members, and Retired Members), ILA is extending your membership. Those with a one-year membership will receive two complimentary months. For those with a two-year membership, you will receive four additional months, and for those with a three-year membership, you will receive six additional months.
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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

    BY DAN MANGAN
     | 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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