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Sparking Inspiration With ILA General Session Speakers

By Nicole Lund
 | May 05, 2016

General Session speakers will spark some of the most engaging and dynamic conversations at ILA 2016 Conference & Exhibits. This year, five distinguished speakers who embody the definition of “literacy leader” are united by their love of words and drive to share the power of literacy.

Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Honor winner Kwame Alexander will speak at the Opening General Session Saturday, July 9. Alexander is not only an award-winning author, but also a poet, literacy advocate, and founder of Book-in-a-Day and LEAP for Ghana, two organizations devoted to empowering youth through literacy. Alexander will be discussing the power of language in both marginalizing and empowering children, emphasizing the importance of instilling confidence through literature.

“Every child has the potential to really excel at reading and writing,” Alexander said in a recent interview in Literacy Today. “Do we give them that opportunity?”

Author, speaker, literacy advocate, and current college student Adora Svitak has seized every opportunity that has presented itself in her young life. After publishing two books before age 11, Svitak delivered a now-famous TED Talk titled “What Adults Can Learn From Kids” in 2010 when she was 12. Its success is seen in the numbers: The video has since garnered over 4 million views and has been translated into more than 40 languages. Now 19 and a student at the University of California, Berkeley, Svitak continues to write and advocate for global literacy, with a special focus on embracing technology and empowering youth and will share her vision at Opening General Session.

“Living in a digital-driven world means that people are losing out on more by not being able to read and write; it also means that more people who are literate but aren’t using their abilities to their full potential need to be able to think critically about the content they’re consuming and, occasionally, mindfully disconnect,” Svitak said in Literacy Today in March.

Closing General Session Monday, July 11, will have the theme of social responsibility with three speakers who advocate for literacy in very different ways.

New York Times best-selling author and award-winner Laurie Halse Anderson will speak about how researching and writing her Seeds of America trilogy changed the way she sees the United States and increased her sense of responsibility to her readers. Well-known and widely applauded for addressing difficult topics in her novels, Anderson spent the past 25 years researching the often dark and painful history of America for her work. Crediting literature for enriching her knowledge of history and cultures, Anderson’s presentation at the Closing General Session is sure to be engaging for her longtime readers and literacy advocates alike.

Microsoft’s Director of Worldwide Education Strategy Steven Duggan, another dynamic TED presenter, will address the ever-growing significance of the relationship between technology and education around the world and particularly in developing countries where quality education is scarce. A former school teacher who has worked in education for more than 30 years, Duggan is a member of the Governing Board of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE). He will expound on his work in bringing technology to the classroom, a hot topic for teachers and advocates who want to stay on the cutting edge.

Struck by the vital importance of enabling youth through literacy, reading support specialist and nonprofit founder Ana Dodson is a member of ILA’s inaugural 30 Under 30 class of literacy leaders. Dodson urges others to “believe in your ability to change the world by adding positive energy into it,” as she works around the world to not only impact literacy herself, but also inspire others to take up the cause and lead in their own ways.

Born in Peru and adopted by American parents as an infant, Dodson founded Peruvian Hearts when she was 11 to provide food, clothes, medical care, and financial support for higher education to impoverished girls. Now in its 13th year, Peruvian Hearts combines enhanced educational opportunities with mentorship and service to equip young women with the skills to break the cycle of poverty.

The ILA 2016 Conference & Exhibits will be July 9–11 in Boston, MA, with more than 6,000 attendees eager to cultivate new teaching practices. With over 300 sessions, including several new additions to the schedule, and the popular Preconference Institutes on July 8, the weekend is sure to be a memorable one. Learn more about what’s coming up at this summer’s conference. Register today.

Nicole Lund is ILA’s communications intern.


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