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Featured Special Interest Group: Middle School Reading

 | Apr 17, 2012

Nance Wilson from the International Reading Association's Middle School Reading Special Interest Group (MSR-SIG) shares the groups exciting projects and activities. 

1. Are you especially proud of any of your SIG's projects?

One SIG project I am especially proud of is our efforts to link middle level authors with teachers and students. Beginning in 2010 we partnered with the author presenting at the annual convention with a classroom teacher. Throughout the year leading up to the conference, the teacher reads the author’s work with her students using interactive, interpersonal, and inquiry techniques. As the teacher finishes her study of the text, the students engage in a Skype session with the author. The lessons learned by both author and students are presented at the annual conference each year.  

This year we are excited to share lessons learned from using integrated technology, questioning, and collaboration from a fifth and eighth grade classroom. The fifth grade teacher, Monique Myers, will share a unit centered around the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis, in which her students worked in literature circles to engage in discussions around the text, used iPads to research the facts behind the books, and prepared engaging in classroom presentations to share each of their texts. The eighth grade teacher, Bernadette Thompson, created a unit centered on Adam Gidwitz's novel A Tale Dark and Grimm to have students research multiple versions of the Hansel and Gretel tale, analyze narrative voice, and use an online Blog to facilitate discussion about the text within and beyond the classroom walls. 

A second MSR-SIG project that I am proud of speaks to the contributions and talents of our membership. Our newsletter boasts of regular columns such as Book Lists for Middle Grade Readers (by Melanie Koss) and Eye on Disciplinary Literacy (by Vassiliki Zygouris-Coe). Our biannual newsletter boasts peer reviewed articles that support the teaching of literacy across the curriculum for middle grade readers.

2. What are the benefits of joining your SIG? 

The biggest benefit to joining MSR-SIG is having access to professional development opportunities focused specifically on Middle Grades literacy as well as learning from the expertise of our members. Our membership is distributed between classroom teachers, literacy researchers, and librarians.   The goal of our SIG is to disseminate pertinent information and research on middle school reading, serve as a forum for expressing varying viewpoints on middle school reading, and promote an interest in further research in the field of middle level reading. In addition to having the opportunity to work with and learn from people across the country, registered members receive our SIG newsletter two times each year and can submit proposals to present at our annual MSR-SIG session.

3. Are there any future projects in store for your SIG?

One exciting new goal of the MSR-SIG is to create more dialogue among the membership throughout the years. For instance, we invite all middle grades teachers (4-9) to participate in our survey to determine what books are being taught in the middle grades classrooms. If you are a middle grades teacher, please take a moment to complete a brief 12 question survey by going to to participate, or feel free to pass the link along to a middle grades teacher that you know. Through this investigation we hope to learn more about the books being used in classrooms and to provide support for the teachers using them.

In addition, we want to find more ways to effectively share our resources and meet the needs of classroom teachers through increased communication between the members. We have a Facebook page for members to share their thoughts and ideas as well as a website for distributing information from past newsletters to booklists.

4. How does one join your SIG? 

The easiest way to join our SIG is to visit IRA’s MSR-SIG website. From here, you can go to the membership page to print the one page registration form and mail it with your $10 annual registration fee to our membership chair, Billie Jo Dunaway. Her contact information is included at the bottom of the form. Please note that you must be a member of IRA in order to join the MSR-SIG. There is also space on the form to indicate your interest in serving as a MSR-SIG committee member.

5. Is there a website, newsletter, or another way to find more information about your SIG? Is there a person that prospective members can contact?

To learn more about the MSR-SIG, you can download a recent newsletter from our Reading in the Middle link at the MSR-SIG website. To learn more about our SIG, you can contact me (Nance S. Wilson, President of the MSR-SIG) at For more information about our newsletter, you can contact our editorial team at


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