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    Global Editor Team to Take Helm of Reading Research Quarterly

    By ILA Staff
     | Jun 07, 2022

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) today announced the next editor team to lead the organization’s flagship journal, Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ). The appointment marks the first time in the peer-reviewed publication’s history that it will be steered by a team of researchers representing four countries.

    The editor team includes

    • Jennifer Rowsell, Professor and Deputy Head of School, School of Education, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
    • Christian Ehret, Associate Professor, Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University, Canada
    • Natalia Kucirkova, Professor, Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioural Research in Education, University of Stavanger, Norway
    • Cheryl A. McLean, Associate Professor, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, New Jersey, United States

    Rowsell, Ehret, Kucirkova, and McLean are well-established as forward-thinking scholars and partners in the field. Their involvement in collaboration and with ILA is extensive. For instance, Rowsell, a former member of ILA’s Literacy Research Panel, and Ehret recently served as guest editors of a special issue of RRQ, “Literacy, Affect, and Uncontrollability.” Kucirkova was most recently a member of the editorial board for ILA’s The Reading Teacher (RT) and she is a member of ILA’s Early Literacy Committee, while McLean is a past member of ILA’s Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards Committee, a past reviewer for the annual conference research program, and a recent RT contributor.

    Their professional relationships date back to 2006, having worked together on numerous books and book chapters, journal articles, conference presentations, and research grants. Their collective interests span across age levels and include multimodal, makerspace, and arts-based research; posthumanist and affect approaches to literacy teaching and learning; the digital divide; social justice in children’s literacy and technology use; and race, culture, and identity.

    Their vision for the future of RRQ demonstrates a knowledge of and commitment to the evolving nature of literacy, with plans in the works for a podcast series and other methods to extend conversations about innovative approaches to reading and literacies across diverse formats, perspectives, voices, platforms, and spaces.

    “Each member of the team is a digital literacy expert, which is key to emphasize in a dramatically changing literacy landscape, and the team therefore carries potential to move the journal into newer directions,” the team wrote in their application. “We believe that the diversity of our backgrounds and cultures, work experience, career stages, and how we approach digital literacy will enrich our editorial work together.”

    The incoming editor team’s four-year term will begin July 1, 2022, and conclude June 30, 2026.

    Rowsell, Ehret, Kucirkova, and McLean will take over leadership from the current team of Amanda Goodwin and Robert Jiménez of Vanderbilt University who, during their tenure, spearheaded two landmark special issues of the journal examining the oft-polarizing science of reading (SOR) from supportive and critical perspectives. Among their accomplishments: boosting the journal’s impact factor, a measure used to indicate the relative importance of a journal, by more than 52%.

    Nicola Wedderburn, interim executive director of ILA, said she feels confident that the incoming editor team is poised to build upon the success of their predecessors. “We are excited by their plans for carrying RRQ’s 50-plus year legacy forward and are confident that they will not only leave their mark on the journal but also the literacy field at large.”

    Danielle Dennis, ILA Board liaison to the search committee that vetted all of the RRQ editorship applicants, echoed Wedderburn’s sentiments and also expressed gratitude on behalf of ILA for the members of the search committee who spent the past several months on the review and interview process.

    “As a member of the ILA Board of Directors and chair of the Publications Committee, I wish to acknowledge the outstanding, thoughtful, and intelligent deliberations of the RRQ Editorial Team Search Committee,” Dennis said. “The members of this committee held true to their charge and aligned their decisions with the mission and vision of the organization.”

    The search committee was led by Margaret Hagood, professor, College of Charleston, South Carolina, and also included Marcus Croom, assistant professor, Indiana University Bloomington; Raúl Alberto Mora, associate professor, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia; Fiona Maine, associate professor, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; Seth Parsons, professor, George Mason University, Virginia; Mia Perry, senior lecturer, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom; and Jon Wargo, assistant professor, Boston College, Massachusetts.

    RRQ is the leading global journal offering multidisciplinary scholarship on literacy among learners of all ages, including the latest research studies. The reach and influence of the journal is extensive. RRQ had more than 350,000 full-text downloads in the last volume year and has a circulation of nearly 6,400 academic institutions.

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    An Unimaginable and Unexplainable Tragedy

    By ILA Staff, ILA Board and Executive Team
     | May 25, 2022

    UnimaginableAndUnexplainableTragedy_680Like all of you, we continue to watch the news today and try desperately—and unsuccessfully—to wrap our heads around the unimaginable and unexplainable tragedy that took place in Uvalde, TX, yesterday morning.

    This unfathomable situation—the loss of these innocent lives—has become an all-too-common occurrence.

    Nineteen children. Two teachers. In their school. A place that should be a haven safe from harm, a bastion of knowledge and learning, and a common ground for developing friendships and discovering the joys and wonders of the world.

    Nineteen children. Two teachers. In Robb Elementary School. That’s how many lives he took. How many more have been touched? Countless may have lost any hope of finding joy in going to school and in getting an education. Countless may never feel safe and in a place where they should feel safest of all.

    We can only hope that every person in the United States and around the world plays witness to this tragedy and works to make all schools a safe and joyous space for all learners and all educators. To fail to do so dishonors the memory of 19 children, who will never have the chance to grow up, and two teachers, heroes Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, who gave their lives to protect their students.

    There are no words that can convey the sorrow we feel or soothe the pain of the families who lost loved ones. So let our actions do what words cannot.

    Stay safe. Stay connected. Stay strong.

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    Kia Brown-Dudley Named Vice President of ILA Board of Directors

    By ILA Staff
     | May 20, 2022

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) today announced the results of the ILA 2022 Board Election.

    2022election-brown-dudley_150x150Kia Brown-Dudley, director of Programs and Partnerships for The Education Partners, is the newly elected vice president of the ILA Board of Directors. Brown-Dudley, currently a member-at-large, serves as the chair of the Program Committee and cochair of the Equity and Social Justice Committee, as well as a member on both the Global and Finance committees. Brown-Dudley’s new term begins July 1, 2022, and she will assume the presidency of the Board on July 1, 2023.

    An ILA member since 1997, Brown-Dudley began her career as a teacher in the New York City Department of Education. Her expertise includes leading blended professional learning, developing research-based reading programs and directing national initiatives advocating for transparency and equity in pre-K–12 education. She is the author of the family guide Read and Rise: Preparing Our Children for a Lifetime of Success and has collaborated with organizations such as Boys’ Club of New York, Reading Is Fundamental and the National Urban League in service of family and community literacy empowerment.

    Through her position with The Education Partners, Brown-Dudley works with educators and leading organizations to create and deliver transformational curricula and professional learning opportunities to improve student outcomes in literacy and early childhood education.

    “I am energized to take on the role of vice president,” Brown-Dudley said. “Over the past three years, I have witnessed ILA transform, adapting to the evolving landscape to meet the needs of literacy educators and advocates. I look forward to working with the ILA community as we create more opportunities to empower and give greater agency to our global constituency to achieve our mission—to improve the quality of literacy learning across the globe in ways that are respectful, responsive and ethical.”

    Three new Board members-at-large were also elected for the 2022–2025 term:

    • 2022election-Corbin_150x150Sue Corbin, professor and chair of the Division of Professional Education, Notre Dame College, OH. Corbin, a member of ILA for more than 30 years, is a former pre-K–6 literacy specialist and middle school reading teacher. She wrote literacy curricula for elementary and middle schools, founded a summer literacy clinic for readers who struggle and has presented at multiple ILA international and state conferences. Corbin is a current board member of ILA’s Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group, which she previously chaired. She has been a member of the editorial board of the group’s journal, The Dragon Lode, in addition to a member and chair of the group’s Notable Books for a Global Society committee.

    • 2022election-Silverman_150x150Rebecca Silverman, associate professor of early literacy, Stanford Graduate School of Education, CA. Silverman, an ILA member since 2001, began her career as an elementary school teacher in New Orleans, LA. She has presented at numerous ILA conferences and served as a contributor to and editorial review board member for ILA’s The Reading Teacher and Reading Research Quarterly journals. At Stanford, where Silverman leads the Language to Literacy Research Lab, she focuses on research and practice related to literacy development and instruction of early childhood and elementary-age children from diverse backgrounds. She has also worked in teacher education and professional development across the United States and internationally.

    • 2022election-Toomer_150x150Jeanette Toomer, 12th-grade English language arts teacher, Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health & Science Charter School, Bronx, NY. Toomer, an ILA member since 2015, has been teaching English language arts and literature, primarily in New York high schools, since 2001 and has written curricula for 10th through 12th grades. In addition, she served as a staff developer for schools and educational corporations and as a composition professor in local colleges.

    Brown-Dudley, Corbin, Silverman and Toomer were elected by ILA’s membership during the ILA 2022 Board Election, which was conducted online between March 28, 2022, and May 6, 2022. The new vice president and members-at-large will begin their terms on July 1, 2022.

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    Why Diversity Needs to Be at the Heart of Children’s Literature

    By Jerie Blintt
     | May 05, 2022
    DiverseLiterature_480

    Literature has always been an indispensable part of society. At a young age, we're introduced to books at home, and later at our school or neighborhood libraries. Helping us navigate this world were our librarians, who used their expertise to guide and enrich our journeys into literature.

    Unfortunately, these connections to literature are being challenged. Writer Mark Weakland in a February post titled “They Tried to Ban My Book” explains how the state attempting to control the dominant ideology is a continuous occurrence in history.

    Weakland writes that the concern around books as harmful or radically biased against the elitist status quo doesn't justify the censorship that tends to silence the already marginalized voices. Censoring actually works against our desire to protect our children, and it is only with diverse literature that we can rear responsible, well-rounded, and critical members of society. Here's a look at what diverse children's lit can do for our kids.

    Promote empathy

    Studies in developmental psychology have consistently shown storybooks as empathy-building vehicles for children. The simulated, abstract experiences and narratives help kids build awareness of what people in different situations may feel. Research published in the National Library of Medicine details how book reading fosters one's identification with someone outside of their self and their own circle, which leads to minimizing fostered prejudice and bias.

    Improve children’s confidence

    Confidence in oneself sets the stage for crucial decision-making and resiliency skills as an adult. Brianna Holmes of Johns Hopkins University criticizes the rampant racial inequality of American society, and stresses how diverse representation and inclusion, with an anti-bias curriculum especially in the academe, is key to a confident child who treats everyone with respect.

    Set the stage for future careers

    An anti-bias curriculum has also been shown to inform behavior and reduce prejudice. Exclusive literature results in an exclusive society, which can be dangerous not only for excluded populations but also for society as a whole.

    This repercussion is particularly noticeable in public health. Telehealth company Wheel highlights health care’s diversity gaps, which is caused in part by a lack of inclusive health care research that tackles minority communities. It is thereby the role of diverse children’s literature to open our minds, especially if we wish for our children to become successful doctors, researchers, and leaders.

    Build critical thinking

    Development is impossible without discourse. When we censor, we discourage open discussion instead of building our children's capacity to think for themselves. History has proven authoritarian attempts to control information as being ineffective and counterproductive. For example, a study by Cambridge University Press found there was increased access to information after the censorship of Instagram in China in 2014.

    Wanting to protect our children is valid. However, in times of uncertainty, inclusiveness and empathy become all the more necessary. It is therefore by promoting awareness and diversity in our children’s literature that we will truly be able to protect them.

    We should be cultivating our children’s ability to decide what is right and wrong, and we can do this by encouraging diversity in the materials we consume no matter how controversial the topic may be. In this day and age of technology where information is a weapon, we must give children the tools for growth and trust that they'll be able to make the right decisions.

    Jerie Blintt is an avid reader who is passionate about bringing technology and literature to the forefront of every classroom. When she's not writing about the latest innovations, you'll likely find her meditating in her local park.

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    Protecting Reader Privacy in the ELA Classroom

    By Kristin M. Patrick & Tara L. Kingsley
     | Mar 22, 2022
    ProtectingPrivacy_680w

    Nyla, a seventh-grade student, chooses e-books during class to hide from peers her favorite series, The Notebook of Doom, which is well below her current grade level. Lincoln, a high school junior grappling with his sexual identity, bypasses the school library reference desk to search the online catalog for e-books with gay protagonists. Mr. Dicken, a first-year elementary teacher, hesitates when prompted to provide family email addresses to a digital reading platform promising free access to popular picture books.

    Nyla, Lincoln, and Mr. Dicken illustrate that digital materials can provide desired privacy in some scenarios while creating problems in others. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, English language arts (ELA) teachers have increasingly relied on digital materials and online tools to expand student access to books and content, facilitate online collaboration, and deliver learning experiences. Here we provide five recommendations for teachers committed to protecting student and family privacy.

    Honor e-books in addition to print materials

    E-books became a solution for getting books in the hands of readers who faced pandemic restrictions. Scholastic shared in their 2020 Teacher & Principal School Report that the shift to distance and hybrid learning doubled teachers’ desire for e-books from 15% to 31%. E-books, in addition to providing instant access, often have accessibility features that support emerging and striving readers. For example, students can enlarge and mark up text, enable text-to-speech, and modify the display contrast. 

    A frequently overlooked advantage of e-books is that readers can download and enjoy titles without judgment from peers. Consider students like Nyla wanting to conceal their reading level. The placement of reading levels on book spines, a debatable practice, is nonexistent with e-books. The American Association of School Librarians cites the protection of student privacy in their position statement against the labeling of print materials with reading levels. For students like Lincoln, curious about sensitive topics such as gender identity, e-books afford the luxury of reading without peers viewing book covers or making assumptions about the reader. Teaching how to locate and access e-book options can help match students with books that meet their instructional needs and personal interests.

    Avoid providing family email addresses to third-party apps

    ELA teachers in school districts without a managed e-book collection may lean heavily on what are marketed as free digital libraries. Libraries, such as Epic and Vooks, provide free accounts for teachers and student access to popular e-books during school hours; however, the tradeoff is the reliance on paid home subscriptions to sustain their business model. Equity-minded teachers can establish transparency by explaining how these digital platforms operate and assuring families they will not supply home email addresses to third-party apps or services. These companies may advertise to families who then may feel pressure to sign up through email solicitation. While some free digital libraries will remain classroom favorites, we recommend inquiring with your school and public library to seek additional options for digital reading platforms.

    Slow down on the social media celebrations

    Social media can be a powerful vehicle for teachers looking to grow their personal and professional learning networks. Protocols become ambiguous, however, when teachers leverage social media to connect with families and share classroom celebrations. For example, it was common for teachers to enthusiastically post screenshots of virtual meetings throughout the pandemic. These online images often included boxes of student faces labeled with first and last names, a violation of student privacy under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Common Sense Education reminds teachers to be mindful of how social media posts can commercialize a classroom. They explain that while social media can be a great way to offer feedback to developers of educational products, teachers may want to think twice about featuring students in posts that promote specific products or services. We recommend that teachers continue to celebrate learning via social media but pause before posting photos that match student names with faces.

    Teach students healthy online habits

    Students, too, can take steps toward protecting their privacy in the ELA classroom. Teachers may consider modeling for students how to wipe the browser history on a shared device, how to privately search the internet through an incognito window, or how to install browser extensions that block online activity trackers. These small habits don’t take long to demonstrate and have the potential to stick with learners long after they leave the classroom. Teachers looking for expanded lesson plans on maintaining privacy online can search Common Sense Education, Learning for Justice, and code.org.

    Consult district curriculum leaders when trying new tools

    Edtech industry efforts to provide free trials of digital tools throughout the pandemic have left many wondering what schools, teachers, and families gave in exchange. The answer may be data. Free digital libraries mentioned above should not be singled out for their targeted marketing. Common Sense Education found inconsistent privacy practices across the industry as part of their 2019 State of Edtech Privacy Report. Some district curriculum leaders are now examining privacy policies when evaluating whether educational apps and resources are useful for meeting instructional goals. Checking for certifications such as the Student Privacy Pledge and iKeepSafe can be one strategy for verifying a company’s commitment to protecting student privacy.

    As pandemic restrictions ease in the classroom, we hope teachers will continue to incorporate their favorite digital tools for collaboration and instruction. Teachers and librarians shouldn’t abandon technology to avoid student privacy issues. Future-focused ELA teachers will recognize there are two sides to the privacy coin. Some of these tools will provide new opportunities for protecting student privacy while others will create new vulnerabilities. It is a shared responsibility to implement safeguards to keep student data private.

     

    Kristin M. Patrick is a past president of the Indiana State Literacy Association and a technology integration coach with Noblesville Schools.

    Tara L. Kingsley is an associate professor of education at Indiana University Kokomo.

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