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Making a Case for Reading Joy
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    ILA Announces 2019 Children's and Young Adults' Book Awards Winners

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 28, 2019

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) today announced the winners of the ILA Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards, which recognize newly published authors who show exceptional promise in the children’s and young adult book fields.

    These titles, ranging from children’s books about a young girl who learns the origins of her very long and meaningful name and a gender-questioning child who finds acceptance from his grandmother to a YA novel about a high school girl navigating school politics and life in the wake of her brother's death, delve into issues of love, loss, family, identity, gender, race and politics.

    “In today’s vibrant world, teachers must design their classroom libraries consciously to show they value all students’ lives and identities,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “We’re excited to shine a spotlight on these titles, which draw readers into the worlds of characters who may be different from themselves and that celebrate empathy, kindness and acceptance.”

    Awards were presented for fiction and nonfiction in each of three categories: primary, intermediate and young adult.

    The 2019 award winners are:

    Primary Fiction

    Winner: Julián Is a Mermaid. Jessica Love. 2018. Candlewick Press.

    Honor: Alma and How She Got Her Name. Juana Martinez-Neal. 2018. Candlewick Press.

    Primary Nonfiction

    Winner: Let the Children March. Monica Clark-Robinson. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Honor: Prickly Hedgehogs! Jane McGuinness. 2018. Candlewick Press.

    Intermediate Fiction

    Winner: Hope in the Holler. Lisa Lewis Tyre. 2018. Nancy Paulsen Books.

    Intermediate Nonfiction

    Winner: Trash Revolution: Breaking the Waste Cycle. Erica Fyvie. 2018. Kids Can Press.

    Young Adult Fiction

    Winner: Dear Rachel Maddow: A Novel. Adrienne Kisner. 2018. Feiwel & Friends.
    Honor: The Beauty That Remains. Ashley Woodfolk. 2018. Delacorte Press.

    Young Adult Nonfiction

    Winner: I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope. Chessy Prout with Jenn Abelson. 2018. Margaret K. McElderry Books.

    Additional information on the ILA Children's and Young Adults' Book Awards can be found here.

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

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    ILA Announces Winners of William S. Gray Citation of Merit, Other Awards

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 28, 2019

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) today presented the William S. Gray Citation of Merit to D. Ray Reutzel, Dean of the College of Education at the University of Wyoming. ILA's most prestigious award, the William S. Gray Citation of Merit honors a nationally or internationally known individual for his or her outstanding contributions to the field of reading/literacy.

    An ILA member since 1982, Reutzel is a former member of the Board of Directors of the International Reading Association (now the International Literacy Association) 2007–2010, past president (2017–2019) of the Reading Hall of Fame, former coeditor of The Reading Teacher and a current member of ILA’s Literacy Research Panel.

    “Reutzel has been a consistent and influential voice for teacher preparation reform, evidence-based reading instruction and educational equity. His work has been vital in protecting the rights of all children to learn—and love—to read and write proficiently,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “We’re thrilled to recognize his important contributions to ILA and to the literacy community at large.”

    Before joining the University of Wyoming, Reutzel was the Emma Eccles Jones Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair of Early Literacy Education at Utah State University for 14 years. He has authored more than 230 research reports published in leading psychology and education research and professional journals, articles, books, book chapters and monographs as well as the best-selling textbook, Teaching Children to Read: The Teacher Makes the Difference (Pearson Education). To date, he has received more than $17 million in research and program development grant funding.

    In addition, the Timothy & Cynthia Shanahan Outstanding Dissertation Award, given annually for a dissertation completed in reading or literacy, was presented to Courtney Hattan, assistant professor of Elementary Literacy at Illinois State University. Her dissertation for the University of Maryland, College Park, Prompting Rural Students’ Use of Background Knowledge and Experience to Support Comprehension of Unfamiliar Content, investigated the effectiveness of traditional (mobilization) and novel (relational reasoning) techniques for activating students’ background knowledge.

    Other award highlights include:

    • The Corwin Literacy Leader Award, presented by ILA to Stacia Lewis, director of Elementary Education for Sevier County, Tennessee
    • The Erwin Zolt Digital Literacy Game Changer Award, presented to Margaret Hawkins, professor at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
    • The Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading Award, presented to Amy McClure, Rodefer Professor of Education, chair of the Education Department and director of the University Honors Program at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio
    • The Leaders Inspiring Readers Award, sponsored by Achieve 3000, presented to Jan Wasowicz, founder, president and chief learning officer of Learning by Design, Evanston, Illinois
    • The Maryann Manning Special Service Award, presented to Tilka Jamnik, head and national coordinator of activities at the Centre for Youth Literature and Librarianship, Slovenia
    • The Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Grant, awarded to Kelly Palomeque, teacher at Riverside Elementary School, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

    The full list of awards/grants and recipients can be found here.

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

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    The Research Address at ILA 2019: Talking the “Dos & Don’ts of Writing Instruction”

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 21, 2019

    It’s often said that reading and writing are inextricably connected. They draw
    upon shared knowledge bases and work in tandem to help students learn across
    all content areas. Studies have proven that, when students practice reading, they
    become stronger writers—and the opposite holds true as well: As students write
    more frequently, their reading comprehension improves.

    Yet despite a large body of research establishing this connection, writing is an
    often overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning.
    The research address at the International Literacy Association (ILA) 2019
    Conference, “The Dos & Don’ts of Writing Instruction,” provides practitioners
    with research-based information about how writing improves reading while
    making the case for teachers, literacy specialists, and administrators to place
    greater emphasis on writing instruction as an integral part of school curricula.

    A new format

    This year’s format will maintain the traditional research address but add a
    roundtable discussion, creating a space for more participatory, engaged, and
    self-steering conversation. With a more intimate setting and focused content,
    the roundtable discussions will allow participants to connect with like-minded
    professionals, ask questions, bounce off ideas, and receive feedback in real time.

    The kickoff

    The event will kick off with opening remarks by Douglas Fisher, professor of
    educational leadership at San Diego State University and a past president of the
    ILA Board; Diane Lapp, distinguished professor of education in the Department
    of Teacher Education at San Diego State University; and David Kirkland, associate
    professor of English education in the Department of Teaching and Learning
    at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human
    Development. The session cochairs will provide a brief overview of today’s
    literacy landscape, mapping some of the challenges that prevent effective writing instruction in the classroom as well as potential avenues for growth and

    Writing as a powerful driver for reading comprehension

    Following is a keynote by Steve Graham, a leading expert on the educational psychology of writing. Graham, the Warner Professor in the Division of Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, has dedicated more than 30 years to the study of writing. His research focuses on identifying the factors that contribute to writing development and difficulties, developing and validating effective instructional procedures for teaching writing, and the use of technology to enhance writing performance.

    Graham is a past editor for leading journals such as Exceptional Children and Contemporary Educational Psychology and the author and editor of several books, including Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students (Brookes), Handbook of Writing Research (Guilford Press), and Best Practices in Writing Instruction (Guilford Press). In recent years, he has been involved in the development and testing of digital tools for supporting writing and reading through a series of grants from the Institute of Educational Sciences and the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.

    Graham will share his insights into the connection between reading and writing and discuss a series of studies that have examined four factors—writing strategies, skills, knowledge, and will—that play an important role in writing performance and development. His keynote will make a compelling case for emphasizing writing in the classroom and across content areas.

    Deep dive into topics of interest

    Following the research address, attendees will have the opportunity to unpack, critique, and expand on the points put forth by Graham. Participants can choose to attend any of the 14 group discussions, facilitated by table leaders who are experts in specific aspects of writing.

    Each table leader will explore one contemporary topic on writing instruction. The leaders will approach all topics through a lens of equity with the goal of improving outcomes for all students.

    Following is the full list of table experts and topics:

    • "Emergent Writing Instruction," Sharon O'Neal, professor, Texas State University
    • “Elementary Writing Instruction,” Brian Kissel, professor of the practice of literacy, Vanderbilt University
    • “Middle & Secondary Writing Instruction,” Kristen Campbell Wilcox, associate professor, SUNY Albany
    • “Scaffolding for ELs,” Danling Fu, professor, University of
    • “Preparing Writers for the Workplace,” T. DeVere Wolsey, professor, The American
      University in Cairo
    • “Self-Regulation,” Karen Harris, professor, Vanderbilt University
    • “Spelling While Writing,” Malatesha Joshi, professor, Texas A&M University
    • “Motivating Writers,” Zoi Philippakos, assistant professor, University of Tennessee
    • “Writing Assessment,” Margarita Gomez Zisselsberger, assistant professor, Loyola
    • “Technology: No Replacement for the Teacher,” Kay Wijekumar, professor, Texas A&M University
    • “Digital Writing,” Troy Hicks, professor, Central Michigan University
    • “Preparing Culturally Responsive Writing Teachers,” Marva Solomon, associate
      professor, Angelo State University
    • “Writing and Reading Connections Across the Disciplines,” Jennifer Serravallo,
      teacher, author, and consultant, New York City
    • “Inclusive Writing Instruction,” Sharlene Kiuhara, assistant professor, Utah University
    Tangible takeaways

    Kirkland, an ILA 2019 featured speaker who also serves as executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, will provide the closing keynote.

    A leading national scholar and advocate for educational justice, his transdisciplinary scholarship explores intersections among race, gender, and education, focusing on the relationship between literacy and incarceration.

    Kirkland’s presentation, “Gaining and Sharing Knowledge: Reading and Writing Joined Forever,” will outline key takeaways from the event as well as next steps educators can take to help students cultivate strong reading and writing skills in the 21st-century classroom. Participants will leave with easy-to-implement strategies and methods, grounded in culturally sustaining pedagogy, that promote academic achievement.

    For more information about the Research Address, as well as a list of other featured research sessions at ILA 2019, visit ilaconference.org.

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

    This article originally appeared in the open access July/August issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

    The Research Address at ILA 2019 will be held on Saturday, Oct. 12, 3:00 PM–4:30 PM. For more information, visit ilaconference.org/iplanner.
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    Creating a Culture of Literacy at ILA 2019

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Aug 14, 2019
    ila2019_themeSchools that prioritize literacy as a central mission of the school have greater retention, more proficient readers, and higher levels of overall academic achievement. But what does that mission look like in practice, and how can we get there?

    As we count down to the International Literacy Association 2019 Conference with its theme of Creating a Culture of Literacy, we asked our Twitter community, “What is something often overlooked when working to create a culture of literacy in learning environments?” Their responses remind us that there’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint; the exact formula is unique to each school and classroom. 

    “Authenticity. Don’t get so caught up in teaching lessons that you lose sight of teaching kids through responsive teaching within a cohesive literacy environment.”
    —Kristen Babovec, educational consultant, Texas

    “When creating a culture of literacy, don't overlook local knowledge and traditions. These can be marginalized in the haste to conform to mainstream norms. Be sure to adopt a broad definition of literacy to promote inclusion.”
    —Salika A. Lawrence, associate professor of literacy and teacher education, New York

    “Educators are so caught up in teaching the skills and strategies of reading education, not to mention TDA’s, that we neglect to discuss the deeper concepts and themes within the text. Ask, ‘What are we reading?’ and ‘Why are we reading it?’ Bring back collaborative conversations.”
    —Kimberly Kennedy, gifted support (fifth grade), Pennsylvania 

    “My colleagues and I have found that people often think of literacy culture as a classroom, but the best literacy culture is schoolwide and community-wide. It involves everyone: teachers, crossing guards, administrative assistants, ELA and non-ELA staff, bus drivers...EVERYONE!”
    —Kenneth Kunz, K–12 supervisor and ILA Board member, New Jersey

    “Student culture.”
    —Aleshea Jenkins, teacher, literacy specialist, instructional coach, Missouri

    “Involving parents in that learning environment/learning culture beyond using ‘reading logs.’ More work needs to be done so that parents know what is expected, and so that they may contribute.”
    —Kristopher Childs, national mathematics content specialist, Florida

    “Community perspective towards literacy.”
    —Federico Brull, Mexico

    “Something that is often missed on our rush to address gaps in literacy is explaining to students what literacy is for and that one of its most overlooked purposes is enjoyment. We must show and practice with our students the sheer fun of reading by offering choice, knowing what is available for students and helping them access it by building their own libraries, having library cards, access to audio books and a teacher modelling a love of reading on a daily basis from K–12 and across all subject areas.”
    —Dia Macbeth, assistant principal, Canada

    “A community of stakeholders who actually read for pleasure and enjoy reading. No one has all of this mysterious time to read, but we who value reading get it done. Besides the modeling aspect, enthusiasm for reading comes from adults who are actually enthusiastic readers.”
    —Shalonda Archibald, ELA Response to Intervention teacher and literacy coach, New Jersey

    “I think we often overlook how important pre-K literacy is and its capacity (if done right and effectively) to create a culture of eager readers and writers ready at kindergarten and beyond. Pre-K should be every child's right and not just for those who can afford it.
    —Oluwaseun “Seun” Aina, founder of Magical Books, Nigeria

    How do you work to create a culture of literacy in your workplace? Do any of these statements resonate with you? Join the conversation on Twitter.

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.
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    One More Round With Hamish Brewer

    By Colleen Clark
     | Aug 08, 2019
    LT371_Brewer1_ldHamish Brewer just doesn’t know when to quit. When it seemed like the world was against him growing up—a broken home, an environment impacted by drugs and alcohol, a shortage of teachers who believed in him—he ignored the naysayers.

    Despite being told repeatedly that he wasn’t smart enough or academic enough, he went on to be the first of his family to go to college—followed by a master’s degree and a soon-to-be doctorate.

    In 2011, the New Zealand native took on the role of principal at Occoquan Elementary School—an underperforming Title I school in the state of Virginia. Within just four years, however, that changed, with the school going from underperforming to receiving the honor of National Title I Distinguished School—facts that helped lead to Brewer being named a Nationally Distinguished Principal in 2017.

    Much of it is thanks to Brewer and his staff being relentless. That word is the root of his philosophy. Relentless spirit. Relentless optimism. Relentless love.

    That love is now the basis for his turnaround efforts at Fred Lynn Middle School, a school within the same district as Occoquan, which was also an underperforming school. Brewer was named principal at Fred Lynn in 2017, where he faced several challenges including disengaged students, low morale, and test scores so low that it had been a number of years since the school was accredited.

    The question now: Can he lead them to the same distinguished title?

    Clearly, he’s no stranger to challenges. (In fact, he once broke his back in a fire truck accident. The former volunteer firefighter has six pins in his back to prove it.) And he’s no stranger to overcoming them.

    It’s not simply about getting students to perform better, he says. It’s getting them to believe in themselves and see the possibilities in their future. It’s about showing them love. It’s about showing them opportunity. And the same goes for the teachers: It’s about bringing their passion back to the surface and reigniting a culture of relentless optimism. And, critically, it’s about proving others wrong.

    Because he doesn’t know when to quit, and he doesn’t want you to either.

    “It’s not about struggles,” Brewer can’t stress enough. “It’s about providing hope.”

    “There’s no greater fight”

    School turnaround looks different each time it occurs. At Occoquan, Brewer says it was about growing instructional practices, establishing a culture of risktaking, being creative, and embracing what he calls “educational senses”— look, feel, touch.

    They went deskless. They introduced collaborative tables and authentic, hands-on experiences. They focused on basic acquisition of skills and a strong literacy program.

    At Fred Lynn, the turnaround can already be seen in the numbers. The school has overcome a number of challenges by improving schoolwide discipline, student, teacher, and parent engagement, and test scores. The school has grown from just over 1,000 students to a nearly 1,350-member student body in two years that includes over 40% English learners and more than 85% from economically disadvantaged families.

    The school also was not accredited when Brewer came on board. Just one year under Brewer, however, and they became fully accredited by reaching their benchmarks in English language arts, math, and science instruction. Now he’s got his eyes on the National Title I Distinguished School honor again, which he refers to with students and staff as “the national championship.”

    Language like that helps get buy-in and build excitement. The academic culture of the school is now something the students want to be part of.

    Brewer describes it as a “relentless, gang, all-in mentality.” Everyone wants in on this impenetrable force that can’t be disrupted. “We support each other, lift each other up, and have each other’s back,” Brewer says. “With this idea, we are ready to answer the call. You take on one of us, you take on all of us.”

    That may sound brutish or crass, especially when you combine it with Brewer’s tattooed appearance—and did we mention he rides the hallways on a skateboard? You might even say it sounds like a gimmick. But he’s quick with the reminder that kids are skilled at seeing through fake façades.

    “There are no games behind this. You’re either going to put the work in or you’re not,” Brewer says. “You can’t pretend. You get found out real quick if you’re fake.”

    This relentless “all-in” spirit is one students, staff, and families feel connected to and they become active stakeholders in the turnaround mission. “The No. 1 thing we talk about here is family,” Brewer says. “When you fight for family, there’s no greater fight.”

    “Let’s prove the whole world wrong”

    The first changes at Fred Lynn were all about visibility. They changed lightbulbs to reduce the yellow and introduce a more natural feel. They brightened up hallways with beautiful murals painted by Brewer and staff, complete with inspirational quotes and leaders to look up to: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malala Yousafzai, among others.

    And being visible himself is another key. Brewer moved the principal’s office from the typical location—an exterior space by the entrance/exit— and repurposed a meeting room in the middle of the school so students would have to walk past his office repeatedly every day.

    Not that he’s typically there. He’s more often seen rolling around the halls, if not on his skateboard then with his mobile desk.

    And his voice is heard every single day, starting with the morning announcements when he’s giving students his daily reminders. Chief among them: “If no one told you today that they love you, Mr. Brewer is telling you today that he loves you.”

    Introducing the character traits of love and kindness came first. Then came the academic shifts.

    There has been “a massive focus” on engagement, literacy, and ownership. And it’s not just ownership of their work, but of their whole school. “We talk about leaving our school better than when we found it,” Brewer says. “We share that their successes can be life successes. This is bigger than just now. It’s setting them up for next year, for high school, and for life.”

    In addition, there is much less emphasis on exams than there used to be. “We don’t talk about exams,” Brewer says. “We talk about amazing instruction each and every day. When you focus on that, the exams take care of themselves.”

    You have to believe 100% in students for them to succeed, Brewer stresses, and they have to see it. When you believe in students, everybody buys in and trusts each other.

    “We make it bigger than just school,” Brewer says. “We tell the kids, ‘Let’s prove the whole world wrong.’”

    “It’s an opportunity”

    When Brewer made the move from Occoquan to Fred Lynn, students followed him because the school is in the same district and is a feeder school to Fred Lynn. Some teachers, however, made the move too because they wanted to follow his leadership and energy.

    Brewer says that, just as students can see through a phony, so too can teachers.

    “I created ownership with my teachers,” Brewer says. “You can’t lead from the back office. You have to trust your teachers to make decisions, to be the professionals they signed up to be.”

    He always tells them: When we look in the mirror, can we say we were better for our kids today? He also works to ensure teachers share his mentality: Teaching is not an obligation. It’s an opportunity.

    As a result, there’s a renewed confidence among teachers at Fred Lynn and there are no longer siloes of instruction. Everyone shares a common mission and understands that they can only be better, together.

    “You’ve seen this movement from delivering content to teaching content,” Brewer says. “They’re evolving their practices. We went from whole-group teaching to small-group differentiated instruction in a two-year span with a focus on planning. My teachers are fired up to plan.”

    “Teachers are amazing,” Brewer adds. “They rise to the occasion.”

    “One more round”

    Among the murals painted along the hallways at Fred Lynn is a large boxing ring. It’s hard to walk past it and not feel more mentally prepared to tackle whatever is in front of you. Spray-painted above it are the words One More Round.

    “It’s this whole metaphor for not quitting,” Brewer says. “Life doesn’t give you a handout. There’s going to be obstacles in life, and what you do about those obstacles and how you respond to those obstacles and how you respond to adversity really defines your character and who you are.”

    The metaphor plays a big role in the culture at Fred Lynn. Brewer even recently brought in UFC mixed martial artist Paul Felder to give a fight demonstration and talk to the kids about grit, determination, and never giving up.

    That’s part of the legacy Brewer wants to leave behind—someone who won’t give up. “We won’t quit on ourselves, each other, or our school,” he says. “We’ll get back up again and again.”

    And that’s very much part of the message he’ll be bringing to ILA 2019.

    “Don’t ever quit on a kid,” Brewer says. “Give them the opportunity to read. Give them the opportunity to write. Give them the opportunity to change the world.”

    Fight for that, he says.

    Be someone who just doesn’t know when to quit.

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the managing editor of Literacy Today.

    This article originally appeared in the open access July/August issue of 
    Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.
    Don’t miss Hamish Brewer during General Session on Friday, Oct. 11. For more information, visit ilaconference.org.
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