Update from ILA on COVID-19: We are committed to keeping you informed of all the latest developments, including the impact on the ILA 2020 Conference in Columbus, OH, and how ILA is helping educators during this period. Let us know what support you need and stay engaged using these free resources.

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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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    Update From Zambia

    By Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman
     | Mar 31, 2020

    We received this letter from Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman, the chair of ChildFund Zambia and the Literacy Association of Zambia, in which she details the efforts made by her organizations and the government of Zambia in promoting literacy education in the midst of managing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We were inspired by these efforts and wanted to share them with our community.

    Greetings. I wish to give you an update on COVID-19 in Zambia.

    The Zambian government confirmed the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country on March 18, 2020, with two cases. The number increased to three on March 22 and escalated to 12 as of March 25. Eleven of the 12 cases concern returning Zambians who had traveled to affected countries while one person was infected in-country.

    Additionally, the Zambian government declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 17. Thereafter, all schools, colleges, and universities were closed as of March 20 until further notice.

    The government also limited the hours of church services to one with smaller groups of congregants. All bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms, and casinos have been closed. The government has also banned large gatherings such as workshops, weddings, and funerals or any event that may pull a crowd above 50 people. Restaurants are operating on take-away and delivery basis.

    As the number of cases increased to 12, the president also announced other measures of preventing the spread of the disease, which included the closure of the three international airports for 14 days.

    The Literacy Association of Zambia is working with ChildFund International and other partners in sensitizing children and their families and caregivers on the preventative measures announced by the government regarding COVID-19. These messages on prevention and hygienic practices were developed by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and have been translated into six local languages.

    The government is also using between 119 and 148 radio stations in the country and other media institutions to disseminate information on COVID-19 info. ChildFund, which is currently housing the Literacy Association of Zambia, is financially supporting the printing of materials and dissemination of information to ensure that it reaches every enrolled household.

    This is being done in conjunction with the Zambia News and Information Services, a government media institution and the district Health Management teams. Messages are being transmitted in the local languages using a public address system regarding the prevention, symptoms, response, and numbers to call in case one presents with the symptoms of COVID-19.

    In terms of literacy, it will be a challenge, especially for the children and teachers in rural areas where they have limited connectivity. In most cases, the children in rural areas come from economically challenged households and may not have any access to digital devices.

    For the children who have access to devices and the families and caregivers who may have computers and laptops, we are trying to share as many materials and resources as possible: We have received electronic resources from the IDC chair, the International Literacy Association, and the education department at our ChildFund. Positive feedback has come from families who are appreciating the initiative.  

    The Ministry of General Education also gave a directive to all schools to give enough work to the learners during this period of closure. Schools were given four days to do so before they were officially closed. 

    There is also a discussion for the Ministry of General Education, through the Department of Open and Distance Education, to work on supporting the children to continue learning during this COVID-19 closedown of schools. They are working on two systems to support the learners: primary schools (grades 1–7) will be supported through educational radio programs, and secondary schools will be supported through the National E-Learning portal, which is being launched as soon as everything is in place.

    Through this strategy, the Ministry of General Education will partner with a national mobile and internet service provider with the hope that, once it is done, learners will be able to access online educational materials and communicate with their teachers. Once this is concluded, the Literacy Association of Zambia will procure radios for the children who are in our areas of operation and where the Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools training were conducted.

    We are looking forward to learning more about how we can help the learners during this period as we are not sure about how long schools will remain closed. 

    We would like to thank Edith for this update and to invite any members, chapters, or international affiliates to send us updates about the efforts being made by educators, schools, districts, or even larger government bodies.

    Stay connected. Share your successes. We’re all in this together.

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    ILA 2020 Board Election Opens

    By ILA Staff
     | Mar 30, 2020

    BoardElection_w300The International Literacy Association (ILA) has commenced its annual election for its Board of Directors. Eligible ILA members are encouraged to vote for three at-large candidates and one vice president candidate. You can read about the candidates here.

    The ILA 2020 Board Election will be conducted entirely online. Individual ILA members with an active membership and a valid email address will receive email reminders with a link to the online ballot. Eligible ILA members who do not have valid email addresses will receive instructions by mail for how they can vote online.

    If you haven’t received your email ballot, please confirm your membership is in good standing and that the email address connected to your membership is accurate by signing into your membership account or by phoning ILA’s Constituent Services Team at 800.336.7323 (U.S. and Canada) or 302.731.1600 (all other countries). 

    For assistance signing into your ILA membership account, please contact Keith Wier, account manager for Intelliscan, kweir@intelliscaninc.com.

    The newly elected Board members will begin their terms on July 1, 2020.


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    COVID-19: What ILA Is Doing to Support Educators During This Time of Disruption

    By Marcie Craig Post
     | Mar 23, 2020

    Marcie Craig Post headshotThere’s no way to know at this time how lasting an impact the coronavirus outbreak will have on our lives, let alone our classrooms. More and more schools across the globe are closing their buildings to help slow the spread of the virus. To minimize the disruption to education, many institutions are transitioning to virtual learning environments.

    This makes sense, in theory. But as those in the education community know all too well, lack of equipment and/or access introduce a fresh new set of challenges. The same can be said for teachers asked to make the move to online learning without formal training or practice.

    On behalf of the International Literacy Association (ILA), I want to let you know that we are here to support you in any way possible. As a first step, we are creating a series of virtual professional learning events that will be open and free to all—both members and nonmembers.

    The first, Edcamp Online, will take place April 7 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET. Our goal is to create a space where educators can connect in real time, on a level deeper than even Twitter or Facebook Live can provide. Social isolation may be necessary, but it’s also linked to adverse health consequences. We’re hoping this will, in some small way, help combat that.

    We’re also increasing the number of free resources available. The most significant of these: We’re reopening access to select sessions from the ILA 2019 Conference. Beginning April 1, you’ll once again be able to learn from Pedro Noguera, David Kirkland, Tricia Ebarvia, Donalyn Miller, and more.

    On a separate note: We’ve received a few inquiries regarding the ILA 2020 Conference, which takes place in Columbus, OH, October 15–18, 2020. As of today, we are proceeding with the conference as planned.

    Rest assured that the health and safety of our participants is our primary concern. We are in daily communication with key officials regarding the latest developments of the virus, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the city of Columbus, and we will continue to follow and implement the government-recommended health and safety guidelines for planning the event and conference operations.

    Earlier this month, we made the decision to close our headquarters office in Newark, DE, and we have asked staff to work remotely until further notice. But operations continue, and we will continue to develop new avenues of support.

    I also want to encourage you to share with us the work you’re doing in your schools and communities by sending an email to social@reading.org. We are eager to celebrate the extraordinary ways in which you’re responding to what is a most extraordinary situation.

    From all of us at ILA: Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.

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

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