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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  • Meaningful Remote Learning and Literacy Practices During COVID-19

    By Katie (Stover) Kelly
     | May 29, 2020

    Student at computerI’m not sure any of us were ready to move fully online but wham!, before we knew it, many of us were building the plane as we flew it. As schools closed due to COVID-19, teachers scrambled to figure out how to switch to remote learning. I have been incredibly impressed with teachers’ abilities and tenacity to do this on such short notice and to consider the complexities of the situation, including the variation of circumstances from family to family.

    With this in mind, I offer a few general tips for effective remote learning:

    • Keep it simple. (Sometimes less is more.)
    • Use familiar digital platforms. (This avoids added stress and new learning so focus can be on content and connections.)
    • Consider nondigital options. (First and foremost, issues of equity need to be considered, but also we want to avoid too much screen time.)
    • Avoid worksheets, both paper and digital. (Learning should be meaningful and not busywork.)
    • Consider asynchronous learning. (This allows for greater flexibility and balance.)
    • Be compassionate, flexible, and forgiving. (The most important tip of all! Don’t forget to honor this for yourself as well.)

    Building off these tips, here are a few suggested resources educators can use to engage students in asynchronous, meaningful literate practices at home now and during the summer months:

    Google Slides HyperDocs

    Create learning modules with Google Slides HyperDocs. Use this approach to put it all together and lead students through step-by-step directions and meaningful learning using multimodalities including text, embedded videos, screencasts, hyperlinks, and the like. Each of the following suggestions could be embedded in the Google Slides HyperDoc. 

    Online book clubs

    Create an Edmodo or Flipgrid page where students can join to discuss a commonly read book. Edmodo is similar to Facebook and allows students to post and respond to each other. Flipgrid is a great tool that allows students to respond with up to 10 minutes of video recordings.

    Paired books and movies

    Being at home is a great time for families to enjoy a movie night. Consider suggesting that students watch movies before or after reading the paired book to compare and contrast. Here are some book–movie pair suggestions to get you started.

    Reading to Make a Difference

    With ideas based on our book, Reading to Make a Difference: Helping Children to Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action (Heinemann), this blog post shows how to curate collections of texts that lead students toward meaningful conversations and action to make a difference while at home. For instance, consider reading a book such as Because Amelia Smiled (Candlewick) by David Ezra Stein and asking students how they might spark acts of kindness in their homes and in their communities during quarantine and beyond.

    Virtual books and informational text

    There are many online resources available to provide access to books including read-alouds on YouTube, websites such as Storyline Online, public library e-books, and publisher’s websites. Clare Landrigan has a great post on her blog about how to create a virtual library. She also provides a template you can use to get your own library started. Here are several repositories of books and informational texts to help stock your virtual shelves:


    Katie (Stover) Kelly
     is an associate professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, SC, and coauthor of From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K–6 Literacy Practices (Solution Tree), Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3–12 (Corwin), and Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Children Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action (Heinemann). Follow her on Twitter @ktkelly14 and her blog at bookbuzz.blog.


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    ILA Elects New Vice President and Members-at-Large to Board of Directors

    By ILA Staff
     | May 21, 2020

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) today announced the results of the ILA 2020 Board Election.

    Robert TierneyRob Tierney, dean emeritus and professor, University of British Columbia, Canada, honorary professor, University of Sydney, Australia, and distinguished scholar, Beijing Normal University, China, was elected vice president. His term on the ILA Board of Directors will begin July 1, 2020. He will then assume the presidency of the Board on July 1, 2021.

    Tierney has held professorships in Australia, the United States, and Canada and has published numerous books and scholarly articles focused on literacy education, teacher development, cross-national educational research, educational assessment, and equity. His recent projects include research on global epistemologies and cross-cultural research, digital literacy and meaning making, the nature of educational scholarship across countries, teacher development projects in China, and indigenous developments in Australia.

    Tierney has a long history of involvement with ILA. He has served as coeditor of ILA’s Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ) journal, as an editorial review board member for RRQ, and as a chair/member of several ILA committees. In 2003, he received the William S. Gray Citation of Merit, ILA’s highest honor for contributions to the field.

    He has also served as president of the Literacy Research Association and as a consultant for Children’s Television Workshop, Apple Computer, and UNESCO. He looks forward to bringing his expertise and global perspective to the Board and to helping guide the future of ILA.

    “My goal is to help ILA, its affiliates, my colleagues, and interested others to make positive and discerning contributions that are both transformative and sustainable,” Tierney said. “ILA has been and should be an agent for change and an ally to educators and communities seeking to make a difference locally and globally with initiatives that are visionary and forward thinking as well as credible, ethical, critical, creative, and beneficial. I see literacies as being at the epicenter of community development and societal advances that have been and will be key to our futures. I am excited by the various challenges and by what could be.”

    Three new Board members-at-large were also elected for the 2020–2023 term:

    Danielle V. DennisDanielle V. Dennis, a professor of literacy teacher education and director of the University of Rhode Island School of Education. Dennis served from 2014 to 2016 as a member of the ILA Literacy Education Reform Task Force that developed the Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform white paper. Since 2015, she has served as an editorial board member for ILA’s The Reading Teacher journal. Dennis served as a board member of the Florida Literacy Association and is currently chair of the Literacy Research Association’s Policy and Legislative Committee. As a literacy teacher educator, Dennis’s focus is on building strong school–university partnerships. Her research studies preservice and inservice teacher knowledge development through literacy coaching and curriculum development.

    Annette M. KiberuAnnette M. Kiberu,a librarian at GEMS Cambridge International School in Kampala, Uganda. Kiberu is the former president of the Reading Association of Uganda, a role in which she oversaw a primary literacy festival, six schools’ introduction of Book Week, three school librarians’ workshops, four national literacy conferences, and the 11th Pan African Literacy for All Conference. She is a board member for Lubiri Nabagereka and KinderKare schools. Kiberu chairs the International Development Committee for Africa, which is an affiliate of ILA. Other committees include the Uganda Multilingual Education Network, Uganda Children’s Writers and Illustrators Association, Peace Corps Education Committee Uganda, and Council of International Schools Library Committee. In 2018, she received the World Literacy Council Award for significant contributions to literacy by an individual.

    Helen J. PerkinsJ. Helen Perkins, a professor of literacy at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. Perkins has served on several ILA committees. Most notably, she served as coeditor of The Reading Teacher and as a lead writer for the Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017. In addition, she is currently chair of the Advocacy/Legislative Committee and conference diversity advisor for the Literacy Association of Tennessee. She is also the advisor to the University of Memphis Student Chapter of the Literacy Association of Tennessee. Her research focuses on urban literacy.

    Tierney, Dennis, Kiberu, and Perkins were elected by ILA’s membership during the ILA 2020 Board Election, which was conducted online between March 30, 2020, and May 11, 2020. The new vice president and members-at-large will begin their terms on July 1, 2020.

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    Reading On: Free Resources for Virtual Learning

    Morgan Ratner
     | May 15, 2020

    Smiling girl at table in front of laptopWith schools looking at long-term closures because of coronavirus (COVID-19), ensuring that students can make the most of their studies at home is more important than ever.

    The literacy and learning communities are well-equipped to help make online learning easier. In addition to ILA’s resources (including our tips for connecting with readers online and using web tools to communicate), an outpouring of support across industries has resulted in free assets educators and families and caregivers can use to engage their readers remotely.

    Below, you’ll find a handful of the many offerings at your disposal during this uncertain time. We might be forced apart, but these resources ensure that we can all continue to learn together.

    Access to Books and Literacy Instruction

    • Wondering which books your students or children might enjoy? Check our Choices reading lists to find their next read (or 10). Each year, thousands of children, teens, and educators around the United States select their favorite recently published books. Use these lists to help your readers connect with comforting stories and find their next page-turner.
    • With a free ReadWorks account, educators and parents can find web series, video tutorials, and support groups to help with reading comprehension.
    • When physical books are unavailable, audiobooks save the day. For as long as schools are closed, Audible will open up its digital library, allowing children to stream a wide collection of stories across a number of languages.
    • Teachers and homeschool educators can get a free one-year subscription to Vooks, a library of read-aloud animated storybooks.
    • Keep kids reading with Epic!, a digital library for kids 12 and under. Families can receive 30 days of free access while educators can join the platform free through June 30.
    • Until the end of June, Amazon Kindle Unlimited is offering free access to more than one million titles, for all ages and across all genres.
    • Sync provides free audiobooks to readers 13 and older, with new titles featured weekly for a one-week borrow through the summer.

    Community Resources and Library Programs

    • Who said you need to travel the globe to see great art? Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with over 2,500 museums to bring the masterpieces of artists like Van Gogh and Monet right to your living room. Talk about a virtual field trip!
    • If you’re looking to help your child or students understand the coronavirus pandemic, look to News-O-Matic, a daily virtual newspaper designed for kids. Young readers can experience the world while building media literacy skills and broadening their horizons. Teachers can receive free access until June 30.
    • Throughout the United States, now-closed libraries, such as the New York Public Library and DC Public Library, are offering library card access through digital apps and websites. Check your local library website to see what offers are available.

    Open Access Publisher Content

    • Macmillan’s trade division is offering free online resources, including downloadable activity kits, audio content, and book-specific teaching guides, while the education arm is sharing webinars and opening up their digital tools.
    • Scholastic’s Learn at Home program includes grade-appropriate projects and events, like virtual book fests, to keep children curious and engaged.
    • Harper at Home from HarperCollins is offering daily read-alouds, author appearances, and book clubs for the whole family to enjoy.

    Morgan Ratner is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.

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    International Literacy Association Cancels 2020 Conference Amid COVID-19 and Its Impact on Education

    By ILA Staff
     | May 13, 2020

    ILA2020LitDaily_680x350The International Literacy Association (ILA) announced today the cancellation of the ILA 2020 Conference, scheduled to take place Oct. 15–18 in Columbus, OH.

    “Although this is a difficult announcement, it was not a hard decision to make because we knew it was the right decision,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “The safety and health of our attendees, as well as everyone who helps shape the event, from speakers and sponsors to exhibitors and staff, is of the utmost importance.”

    Before the detrimental effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the ILA 2020 Conference was expected to draw some 4,000 literacy professionals and educators from around the world. However, with schools and universities closed and travel restrictions in place, continuing to plan for an education conference “was not the right move for a professional development organization at this time,” Post said.

    Post cited continuing challenges around budgets as another factor in the decision, as well as the critical task of students’ academic recovery following what’s been dubbed “the COVID slide.”

    “Our members and all those who traditionally attend our conference need our support but not in the form of an in-person conference they likely wouldn’t be able to attend,” Post said.

    Instead, ILA is focused on expanding its virtual learning options. Last month, ILA offered a free replay of six top sessions from the ILA 2019 Conference and held its first ILA Edcamp Online, becoming one of the first organizations to bring the popular, participant-driven “unconference” into a digital space.

    The organization also launched on May 3 ILA at Home, a new series of webinars, beginning with Timothy Shanahan. The event attracted more than 1,400 registrants in 10 days. The second in the series, featuring Donalyn Miller, takes place May 31.

    At the center of this slate of digital events is a new, progressive model of professional development ILA will announce next month.

    “Nothing can compare to the experience of actually being at a face-to-face ILA conference,” Post said. “So rather than try to replicate it in a virtual space, we felt it made more sense to design something meant to be virtual from the start—something that maximizes the benefits of delivering PD on a digital platform.”

    For more information, visit the Digital Events page of the ILA website.

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    ILA’s Road Ahead

    By Marcie Craig Post
     | May 13, 2020

    Important AnnouncementThis column will be appearing in the May/June issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine, set to publish on Friday. Please visit the ILA 2020 Conference site for more information.

    We’re living in an unprecedented rate of change with the world at a standstill.

    What you knew to be true before you went to bed on Monday is likely to have shifted by the time you woke up on Tuesday—or was it Wednesday? For those of us confined to our homes due to shelter-in-place orders or self-imposed isolation, the days seem to blend into one another. (If it wasn’t for Outlook reminding me of conference calls and Zoom meetings, I’m not sure I’d automatically remember which day it was either. One of those round-robin social media posts asked what movie best describes how you’re feeling right now. My response? Groundhog Day.)

    Education as we know it has been upended. School closures that were initially thought to be short term have been extended indefinitely. Some school systems have already taken the action to close through the rest of the school year. As of mid-April, UNESCO was reporting that more than 1.5 billion learners—that’s 91.3% of all enrolled students across 191 countries—have been impacted. Some universities are preparing for the possibility of campuses remaining closed long term and are expecting at minimum a 15% drop in registration for fall 2020.

    Long term, there is no way to predict how this global pandemic will impact the way we teach and the way students learn.

    Short term, there’s urgency to address some very specific challenges around equity and access. These areas of weakness “exposed” by the coronavirus aren’t novel to educators. In our 2020 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, released in January, we shared that both ranked in the top five most critical issues in literacy education. We also found that the top professional development need of survey respondents was on using digital resources to support literacy instruction.

    What is new is the urgency we’re seeing to shore up those weaknesses. And the big question on everyone’s mind is how.

    At ILA, we’re focusing on what we can do to meet your needs—not only the ones you have today but also the ones you’ll have in the future during the post-COVID-19 recovery phase. Here are some of the steps we’ve taken so far:

    • We launched the ILA 2019 Replay. For the months of April and May, we are offering open access to six of the top sessions livestreamed from last year’s conference.
    • We held the first ILA Edcamp Online. Registration for the inaugural event, held on April 7, sold out within hours of going live. Look for more of these live, participant-driven events in the future.
    • We accelerated the timeline on our digital events program. This includes interactive webinars with literacy leaders such as Timothy Shanahan (May 3) and Donalyn Miller (May 31). Each are free for members and available to nonmembers for $45.

    Sensing a trend?

    Streaming recorded sessions and delivering live webinars are standard practices for a professional organization. Adding online peer-to-peer learning and virtual networking opportunities help round out the mix.

    And in the coming months, you’ll see more and more organizations either launching or augmenting collections like these. The value of high-quality content that’s accessible with a device and a reliable Wi-Fi connection has never been greater.

    But for us, the work doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s only just beginning. Each challenge we’ve encountered has given rise to a new way of thinking about what we do and how we do it.

    This magazine, for example. We announced in April the decision to discontinue the print version of Literacy Today. There are several reasons for this, but one of the driving factors is that a number of members receive their subscriptions at their schools or universities—buildings they won’t be entering again for an indeterminate amount of time.

    Innovation was another factor. For the past few issues, we’ve been testing features for the digital version, such as adding exclusive online content and embedding links to videos. We asked ourselves what we could do if we weren’t limited by print. How could we increase value to members by shifting our efforts in this other direction? The possibilities excited us.

    Around the time we were having discussions, we received word from Wiley, the publishing company that prints and distributes our journals, that they would be shifting to a digital-only format until COVID-related restrictions eased and operations could resume as normal. Although this didn’t directly influence our decision about Literacy Today, it did underscore for us that there were definite advantages to a digital publication that didn’t depend on print presses and postal service.

    We applied this kind of thinking to other areas as well, such as our conference, set to take place from October 15–18 in Columbus, OH. From the beginning, when early reports of this devastating virus surfaced, our staff has been in close contact with key officials from the city of Columbus, the Ohio Department of Education, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We have been tracking guidelines and recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization. Even though the event wasn’t scheduled until October, we knew from the start we did not want to put on a conference that wasn’t safe for our attendees, exhibitors, and staff.

    Safety has been a top concern of ours from the start. On March 1, ILA suspended travel for staff and members of the Board of Directors. Not long after, we went to a 100% remote work environment. We also increased the flexibility of our workday to ease the burden on families impacted by sudden and wholly unexpected closures of schools and childcare facilities.

    On March 23, Delaware Governor John Carney issued a shelter-in-home order for the state (where our headquarters is located) to remain in effect until May 15. At the time, it was one of the more conservative measures taken. Carney told reporters, “I don’t want Delaware to be the example of what not to do in this crisis.”

    We can say the same for ILA: We do not want to be an example of what not to do. And so in the end, we made the heartbreaking but necessary decision to cancel this year’s conference.

    Many organizations facing similar scenarios have opted to relocate their in-person events to virtual platforms or create hybrid conferences with both face-to-face and digital components. We considered those options but ultimately decided to go in a different direction.

    At this time, we are working on a new model for professional learning—one that allows us to be incredibly responsive to what is going on in your classrooms, your schools, your communities, and the world at large.

    It takes some of the best of what an ILA conference traditionally offers and combines it with new, progressive formats that provide a deep, personalized learning experience. In addition, we’ll be launching new members-only benefits in the coming months, including digital resources informed by responses received from the 2020 What’s Hot in Literacy survey.

    Right now, when everything is or feels at least a little new, we at ILA are embracing the opportunity to turn to a blank page. What we were is no longer as important as who we can, should, and will be.

    In the eight years since I became the executive director at ILA, I don’t know that I have ever felt so much possibility and promise. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you joins us in forging this new path and, in the process, help us be better in service to you and our profession.

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

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