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    ILA Now Accepting Proposals for ILA Intensive: Nevada

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Dec 11, 2018
    ILA Intensive: Nevada

    ILA is accepting session abstracts for ILA Intensive: Nevada, a two-day professional learning event focused on recognizing and addressing biases in literacy instruction, now through December 18.

    Designed and delivered by literacy educators, Intensives offer more personal, in-depth, and hands-on learning experiences where participants will learn the latest research and strategies while connecting and networking with like-minded practitioners.

    The upcoming Intensive, taking place June 21–22, 2019, in Las Vegas, NV, is designed to help educators create classroom and school environments that are diverse, inclusive, affirming, and culturally sensitive.

    ILA encourages abstract submissions that provide attendees with practical skills and tools they can immediately apply in their practice. Submissions should demonstrate a clear connection to the theme of Equity and Access to Literacy; highlight current research and best practices; and include participatory elements. Please review the submission guidelines for more detailed instructions for abstract submission.

    All presenters are responsible for their ILA Intensive: Nevada registration fees and any expenses associated with the presentation, including attendance at the event. Note that due to the small size of the program and the interactive format of this event, the selection process will be highly competitive.

    Click here to learn more about ILA Intensive: Nevada. For questions related to the event or the abstract submission process, contact

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

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    Herstory: Achievements of Women in the Past and the Present

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Dec 10, 2018

    As educators, we are excited about the rising number of trade books being published that celebrate remarkable women and their achievements in the past and the present. The inclusion in classrooms and libraries of books such as the ones reviewed in this week’s column will inspire young people and enrich the history curriculum with “her stories.”

    Ages 4–8

    Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted. Susan Wood. Ill. Sarah Green. 2018. Abrams.

    Nevertheless, She PersistedThis engaging picture book biography of Elizabeth Warren presents the senator from Massachusetts as an individual who, throughout her life, has been a fighter—a fighter for families, for those struggling to be heard, for those in need of help. And she has done that fighting with an insistent voice. While on the debate team in high school, she learned to craft persuasive arguments and to challenge her opponents. As a lawyer and law professor, her concern for the plight of struggling middle-class families led to a specialty in bankruptcy and work on consumer protection. During her first political campaign for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, she promised to fight for equal rights for everyone, and she won. And since 2012, Elizabeth Warren has insisted, resisted, and persisted inside and outside the U.S. Senate chambers in fighting for equality for all. Back matter includes an author’s note and bibliography.

    Have You Heard About Lady Bird?: Poems About Our First Ladies. Marilyn Singer. Ill. Nancy Carpenter. 2018. Hyperion.

    Have You Heard About Lady BirdMarilyn Springer’s witty poetry and Nancy Carpenter’s whimsical pen-and-ink illustrations introduce readers to the women who have “served” as First Lady, from Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (“‘Lady Presidentess,’ dear wife of our first leader, / did not bemoan, she set the tone, / for all who would succeed her.”) to Melania (Knavsi) Knauss Trump. Back matter includes a “Being the First Lady” note, brief biographical notes on the women, and sources. You might consider pairing the reading of poems about the First Ladies in this collection with poems in Singer’s Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents (2013).

    Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakeable Mathematician Sophie Germain. Cheryl Bardoe. Ill. Barbara McClintock. 2018. Little, Brown.

    Nothing Stopped SophieGrowing up during the French Revolution, when a woman’s education often consisted of learning about manners, marriage, and music, Sophie Germain (17761831) loved math. Even when her parents took away her candles so she couldn’t study at night, “nothing stopped Sophie.” After convincing her parents to support her studies, she secretly pursued a university-level study of mathematics by submitting written work to a world-famous professor under a man’s name, won a prestigious prize from the Paris Academy of Science for her work on predicting patterns of vibration, and made significant contributions to the field of mathematics and physics. Beautifully designed illustrations (created with pen-and-ink, watercolor, and collage) accompany this fascinating and inspiring story of a determined self-taught mathematician. Back matter includes an experiment on vibrations, biographical and historical notes, a bibliography, and author’s and illustrator’s notes. 

    Ages 9–11

    Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote. Kirsten Gillibrand. Ill. Maira Kalman. 2018. Knopf/Random House.

    Bold & BraveSenator Kirsten Gillibrand introduces three “bold and brave” women in her family (her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother) before turning to 10 women who came before them, boldly and bravely fighting for justice and equality: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jovit Idár, Alice Paul, Inez Milholland, Ida B. Wells, Lucy Burns, and Mary Church Terrell. Double-page spreads feature Maira Kalman’s vibrant full-page gouache portraits of these “heroes” and Gillibrand’s profiles focusing on the challenges they faced and the contributions they made to the suffragist movement. The book ends with a spread depicting the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and a final image of young protestors accompanied by the text “Now it’s your turn. You are the suffragists of our time. . . . Stand up, speak out, and fight for what you believe in. Be bold and be brave. The future is yours to make.”

    Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World. Katherine Halligan. Ill. Sarah Walsh. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    HerstoryHistory is often about “his” stories, but this book includes “her” stories that encourage readers to “take inspiration from these 50 women and girls and shake things up!” The book presents the stories of a diverse selection of women and girls from different countries, cultures, and eras, including Sacagawea, Theresa Kachindamoto, Mirabai, Frida Kahlo, Mary Seacole, Eva Perón, Ada Lovelace, Valentina Tereshkova, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Malala Vousafzai. Each profile is given a double-page spread on which Katherine Halligan’s skillfully crafted and informative narrative is complemented by Sarah Walsh’s captivating illustrations (created in gouache, colored pencil, and Photoshop), and photographs. Back matter includes a “When They Were Born” timeline, a glossary, and an index.

    No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kathleen Krull. Ill. Nancy Zhang. 2018. HarperCollins.

    No Truth Without RuthKathleen Krull uses “No truth without Ruth!” throughout the narrative in this inspiring profile of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933–present) as a “fierce fighter for fairness and truth.” Facing gender and religious discrimination and overcoming obstacles, she studied law, had a successful legal career, and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1933. A “Top 10 Moments When Ruth Bader Ginsburg Fought for Fairness on the Supreme Court” section in the back matter supports the importance of Justice Ginsburg as a changemaker and fearless advocate for justice and equality. The picture book biography, complemented by Nancy Zhang’s expressive mixed-media illustrations in soft colors, also includes a chart of the U.S. federal court system and sources.

    Ages 12–14

    The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor. Sonia Sotomayor. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    The Beloved World of Sonia SotomayerIn this middle-grade edition of her memoir for adults, My Beloved World (2013), Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor advises her readers to always “dream big.” Born in the Bronx into a working-class family of Puerto Rican descent, Sonia experienced tough times as a child (including poverty, juvenile diabetes, and the death of her father) but discovered how reading enlarged her world and gave her even bigger dreams. Most importantly, she developed techniques for succeeding in unfamiliar and challenging settings and found mentors who guided her through life, health, and career choices. The book includes an eight-page photo insert, and a glossary and brief history of the Supreme Court in the back matter.

    She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. Lynn Fulton. Ill. Felicita Sala.2018. Knopf/Random House.

    She Made a Monster“Two hundred years ago, on a wild, stormy night, in a beautiful house on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland,” Mary accepted Lord Byron’s challenge to write a ghost story in just one week. With the help of a scary experience from her childhood and inspiration from the memory of her feminist mother (Mary Wollstonecraft, who felt women could do anything—even be writers), Mary developed a vision for her story. Only 20 years old when Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus was published in 1818, Mary became a trailblazer for women writers, especially creators of horror fiction. Felicita Sala’s illustrations, rendered in funereal tones with watercolor, ink, and colored pencil against dark backgrounds, complement Lynn Fulton’s account of Shelley’s creation of her classic horror story in the darkest hours of the night. Fulton’s author’s note provides background and indicates changes she made in the true story for this picture book.

    Ages 15+

    Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper. Manuela Santoni. 2018. Graphic Universe/Lerner.

    Jane Austen-Her Heart Did WhisperThis graphic novel tells the life story of British novelist Jane Austen (1775–1817) through the medium of spare black-and-white manga-style artwork and text (translated from Italian into English). Through letters she wrote to her sister Cassandra, the narrative begins at the end of Jane’s life with “Do you know where the line is between fiction and the real world?” and winds its way back to Jane’s childhood, against the backdrop of a time in which women had few legal rights in England. Jane follows her heart and gains rights to her father’s library, becomes a passionate reader, writes short stories and novels, falls in and out of love, and dies at a young age. Back matter includes biographical notes and a timeline. 

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English, Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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    Show Your Students Why Sourcing Matters

    By Eva Wennås Brante and Carita Kiili
     | Dec 07, 2018

    Many students struggle with sourcing, specifically, how to use source information to evaluate online sources or how to cite ones’ sources in the essay. Some students may not know how to source while others have knowledge about sourcing, but they don’t typically choose to apply that knowledge in practice This might be because they do not understand the value of sourcing.

    When investigating how children respond to information from adults and how they select whom to trust, researchers Paul Harris and Kathleen Corriveau found that, even for children, the source of information matters. For example, when two caregivers presented different statements, the children turned to the more familiar caregiver for confirmation. Children seemed to be nonselective in what they learn from others, but not in whom they learn from. This kind of spontaneous attention to sources of information may serve as a starting point for educators when explaining to students why sourcing matters. So, let’s do that!

    We will begin by sharing two examples that teachers could use to discuss the value of sourcing with their students. The first example from everyday life takes advantages of students’ spontaneous attention to sources and can also be used with younger students. The second example illustrates how information about the source may affect one's interpretation of a text's reliability. It also shows why one should pay attention to different aspects of the source during online inquiry.

    When students have understood the value of source information, they may be better motivated to cite their sources when reporting the results of their online research in a way that serves their readers. To provide informative in-texts citations, students need some guidelines. Our third example introduces two dimensions that students can keep in mind when formulating in-text citations.

    Example no. 1: Sourcing in everyday life

    Draw students’ attention to the value of citations by showing them a short message without a source (signature) and then, the same message with different signatures, following the stickers below (created with digital Superstickies).


    • After showing the first note, without the source, begin the conversation by asking students, “Would you like to know who has written the note? Why?”
    • After revealing the three other notes and calling attention to the different signatures (or sources) of each, ask students, “How do you interpret and react to the notes with different sources (signatures)?"

    Example no. 2: Sourcing when evaluating the reliability of a website

    Discuss the value of sourcing by asking students to evaluate the reliability of a fictitious website after showing them one piece of source information at the time, as listed below.

    • How reliable do you find the Web text that concerns health effects of chocolate when you know that:
      • An expert working at the health institute has been interviewed for the text?
      • The text has been published recently?
      • The text has been written by a web designer?
      • The text is published in the website of a chocolate manufacturer?
    • How did your interpretations on reliability change after each new piece of information about the source?
    • Do you think that one piece of information about the source is enough to make a proper conclusion about the reliability of the text? Why do you think so?

    Example no. 3: How to cite your Web sources in an essay?

    When older students are asked to formulate in-text citations in their essays, it is important that their citations are both accurate and provides rich information about the source. An accurate citation provides precise information about the Web page that students had actually read (e.g., it is published by The Washington Post). A citation that provides rich information includes two or more pieces of information that helps a reader to understand the nature of the source. 

    These two important dimensions can be introduced to students by using examples from the figure below. In the examples, source information is underlined.


    After explaining the dimensions, encourage your students to apply these principles in their essays.

    Eva Wennås Brante is a senior lecturer at the University of Malmö, Sweden.

    Carita Kiili is a postdoctoral fellows at the Department of Education at the University of Oslo.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Pairing Classical Canon With Contemporary Counterparts

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Dec 05, 2018

    book-clubs-ltAlthough we’ve long known the importance of cultivating a diverse classroom library, today’s English language arts curriculum remains dominated by a list of familiar titles, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn,and Homer’s The Odyssey. Proponents of classical literature note their cultural and historical significance, praiseworthy prose, and contributions to a shared knowledge base.

    On the other hand, a growing number of educators have moved away from using these classics in favor of more modern alternatives, arguing that they offer more compelling, inclusive, and relatable narratives while imparting the same skills and themes.

    ILA’s latest brief, Expanding the Canon: How Diverse Literature Can Transform Literacy Learning, opts for a less binary option. Instead of pitting classic versus contemporary, the piece argues that teaching traditional canon in tandem with current titles is the more powerful option.

    One added benefit of this approach is the ability of educators to cultivate a classroom library that reflects the “diverse streams of culture, history, and language that compose today’s increasingly global society.”

    Here are a few sample pairings, provided via Twitter by classroom teachers and literacy professionals:

    “This fall, we are ‘pairing/laddering’ the new nonfiction by Larry Dane Brimner, Blacklisted!, with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. We actually get to read into the events that inspired the play with the pairing here.”

    “Teach texts in conversation with one another: The Great Gatsby with Toni Morrison’s Jazz, Macbeth with House of Cards, Never Let Me Go with The Marrow Thieves.”

    “The most powerful pairings are the most unlikely ones—focused on the same questions but from different centuries and very different writers. My current favorite: Hamlet and Long Way Down. The Hate You Give and Romeo and Juliet.”

    “Sophocles’s Oedipus the King and Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men. Codes of honor, courage to face the truth, complexity of the human condition.”

    “I have an idea to look at language used to describe Othello and language used in the red lining maps, easily searched through Mapping Inequality. Same problem, different day. And important American history.”

    “We read Greek mythology and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery with The Hunger Games—kids love making comparisons and finding thematic connections.”

    “Shakespeare’s King Lear and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.”

    How often do you pair reading classics with modern, inclusive texts? Which pairings were especially strong or resonated with your students? What themes work well for these pairings? Email your answers to

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

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    ILA Helps Recruit Support for Detroit Literacy Lawsuit Appeal

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Dec 04, 2018

    The widely anticipated appeal in the Detroit literacy lawsuit tossed out by a judge last June—the first case in the United States to assert that literacy is a constitutional right—was filed last week.

    The appeal was filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In addition, multiple amicus curiae briefs were filed in support—most notably one signed by the International Literacy Association (ILA) and several other influential leaders in the education space.

    In fact, it was ILA and Kappa Delta Pi, both early supporters of the case, that helped recruit this latest round of backers with an assist from the Advocates for Literacy Coalition. There are now 17 organizations attaching their name to the amicus brief, including the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

    The purpose of the amicus brief: to not only request that the court reverse its earlier decision to dismiss the case, but also to highlight the multiple deficiencies the filers have found that they agree are “plausible allegations” against the defendants—the governor of Michigan and multiple education officials.

    “We have long argued that literacy is a human right and therefore should be regarded as a constitutional right,” says Bernadette Dwyer, president of the Board of ILA. “We vowed to continue our support, and we’re happy to sign on to the appellate amicus brief in what may well turn out to be a landmark case.”

    The federal class action lawsuit, dubbed Gary B. v. Snyder, was initially filed in 2016 on behalf of Detroit Public Schools students. Its main claim is that access to effective literacy instruction is a civil right under the U.S. Constitution, and that the state of Michigan, along with education officials, have failed to deliver on that right. The argument is that, because of unsafe conditions, a lack of resources, an unprepared teacher pool, and curriculum without a strong evidence base, Detroit students have been denied access to even minimum standards in literacy education.

    When the judge dismissed the case earlier this year, he stated that literacy is of “incalculable importance,” but the plaintiffs failed not only to prove it fundamental but also to prove deliberate actions by the defendants that have led to these conditions.

    Both this new amicus brief and the appeal detail accounts ranging from improperly trained teachers to unrepaired bullet holes, not enough desks and chairs to outdated reading materials, and a rampant rodent problem to broken heating systems.

    These “concrete barriers,” the brief asserts, are the result of failure on the state’s part.

    “The fact that the students in Detroit schools severely lag behind their peers in their literacy scores is a direct and unmistakable consequence of the state’s failure to provide the safe, nurturing environment that experts have identified as a necessary ingredient for learning,” the brief states.

    Although the U.S. Supreme Court has never declared literacy to be a constitutional right, it opened the door for a future ruling by commenting in the 1973 case San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez that some “identifiable quantum of education”—some small piece—might be a constitutionally protected prerequisite to the meaningful exercise of other legal rights.

    It is argued that basic literacy is that “identifiable quantum,” the indispensable skill required to exercise the First Amendment and other rights.

    “[We] have also seen firsthand both the great benefits that public education provides to students as well as the devastating consequences that students suffer when their education systems fail,” the brief states. “Denial of access to literacy has cascading effects on students that can disadvantage them throughout their lives.”

    The following organizations have signed the amicus brief with ILA: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Association for Middle Level Education, Association of Teacher Educators, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Creative Change Educational Solutions, Educational Leaders Without Borders, International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership, Learning Disabilities Association of America, National Association for Multicultural Education, National Association for Professional Development Schools, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Collaborative for Digital Equity, National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English, School Social Work Association of America, and Teaching for Change.

    In addition, multiple other entities and organizations filed their own amicus briefs last week, including the city of Detroit, the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the ACLU of Michigan, and the American Federation of Teachers.

    “This is a case that has the potential to improve the lives of students in Detroit and beyond,” says Dan Mangan, ILA’s director of Public Affairs. “What they are doing isn’t just about their school system. They are fighting for literacy to be a constitutionally mandated right for every child, everywhere, regardless of zip code. ILA is proud to stand among the multiple organizations in this brief that are urging the court to reverse its decision and see this case move forward.”

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

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