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    In Memory of Phylliss Joy Adams

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 15, 2017

    Phylliss AdamsWith great sadness we announce the passing of Phylliss Joy Adams (1987–88), past president of the International Reading Association (IRA, now the International Literacy Association), the Colorado Council of the International Reading Association (CCIRA), and the Denver local council of IRA. We offer our deepest condolences to her family along with our sincerest gratitude for all that she accomplished.

    Adams dedicated her life to improving literacy instruction.  After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Northwest Missouri State University, and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Denver,  she began a long career of teaching at public schools and universities in the fields of reading and literacy.

    An internationally known speaker and consultant, she presented in over 30 states, as well as for international council in more than 10 countries. Still she found time to author more than 40 books for young readers as well as professional development materials for educators.

    When Adams wasn’t reading, writing, or traveling for work, she was doing so for fun. She and her husband of 65 years, Keith, visited all 50 states and over 100 countries. After retiring she was active in three different book clubs and volunteered as an ambassador at the Denver International Airport for over eight years.

    “She was an extremely hard worker for IRA, for her state association, and for literacy in general,” said past president Jack Cassidy (1982–83).

    Past president Carl Braun (1990–91) served on the Board during Adams’ presidency and remained friends with her since. He described her as an always-prepared, highly organized, fiercely ethical leader and “an open and friendly” person.

    During her tenure, Adams worked hard to raise the visibility of IRA councils, traveling across the U.S. and internationally to help them attract members, survey regional needs, and define their goals. She also promoted the value of children’s literature in the teaching of reading—a progressive approach to instruction at the time.

    “She always preached that whatever the [teaching] method, children’s literature has to be the centerpiece. That was the kind of belief that certainly raised eyebrows in the late 80s,” Braun said.

    Above all, he said she will be remembered as an indefatigable advocate for teachers.

    “Of the many people I’ve known in literacy education, she was one of the most avid advocates. A completely unabashed advocate for teachers everywhere. I think that’s one thing that a lot of people will remember her for, and certainly hundreds of thousands of teachers,” he said.

    In lieu of flowers, it is requested that a donation be made to CCIRA in honor of Phylliss J. Adams. The donations collected will provide scholarships to CCIRA’s annual conference held in February in Denver, CO. Checks should be made out to Cathy Lynsky, CCIRA Treasurer, 161 Quakie Way, Bailey, CO 80421.

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily. 
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    30 Under 30: As Told by Former Honorees

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 15, 2017

    30 Under 30 HonoreesThrough our 30 Under 30 list, ILA recognizes young innovators, disruptors, and visionaries who are leading efforts to overcome the challenges of today’s education field and to advance our vision of a literate world for all. Beyond visibility, 30 Under 30 honorees gain confidence, professional development opportunities, and new and expanded networks. Here’s what some of our former honorees have to say about the experience, in their own words:

    “The ILA 30 Under 30 award is more than a global tag/title or recognition. It has provided me a platform upon which a lot of contemporary programs and reforms can be replicated to Liberia. As ILA members, we now have a pool of resources to ensure our programs are meeting the evolving literacy needs of the people we serve. Our participation as the only exhibitor from Africa at the ILA 2016 Conference & Exhibits in Boston, MA, provided us with important contacts that we continue to leverage as we seek to expand our scale and impact in Liberia.” 

    Benjamin Freeman, 2015 30 Under 30 honoree and executive director of the Liberia Institute for the Promotion of Academic Excellence (LIPACE)

    “For the first time, I attended and presented at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits in Orlando, FL, where I had the opportunity to meet some of my 30 Under 30 colleagues and other ILA leaders. Being able to meet the people behind so many of ILA’s impactful initiatives was empowering. Another life-changing moment occurred for me when Katie Wood Ray reached out to me about visiting my school! She had read the 30 Under 30 article, and she wanted to see our work with English learners and family engagement in action. As a literacy coach, sharing an opportunity with my staff to talk with one of the giants in elementary literacy was a truly incredible experience.

    Being a 30 Under 30 honoree reminded me that age does not define our contributions to community and society. We all have something to share and learn from each other—no matter our ages, our geographic locations, or the nature of our careers in education. We all have something to contribute. We can all be literacy leaders, if we take the time to listen and to act.”

    Melissa Wells, 2016 30 Under 30 honoree and assistant professor for the College of Education at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia

    “After receiving the award, I was asked to be one of the keynote speakers at the Closing General Session [at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits] and spent the subsequent months in a constant state of panic as I prepared to speak in front of a room of highly respected literacy advocates. The entire ILA team was extremely supportive and encouraging to me on the days that led to my speaking. They were so encouraging, in fact, that I felt confident enough to overcome my fear of public speaking. After I finished my session and returned backstage I was met with hugs and cheers.

    There’s a sense of family at the conference. Imagine a convention center full of individuals who share your same heart for empowering students through literacy. The feeling is indescribable and truly inspiring. I was able to connect with other 30 Under 30 honorees and hear their literacy success stories. It’s calming to know that the world is filled with other teachers whose life passion is the same as mine: literacy for all. I am still in contact with my fellow honorees and love seeing what they’re doing in their classrooms. I left conference feeling empowered and truly inspired to continue my work.”

    Katie Lett, 2016 30 Under 30 honoree and elementary teacher of English learners at Kentwood Public Schools in Michigan

    If you know someone who is under the age of 30 (as of March 1, 2019) and who has shown extraordinary dedication to ILA’s mission, we invite you to complete a short nomination form here. All nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 1, 2018.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Resources for Talking and Teaching About School Violence

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 14, 2017

    Freeman Reflections When traumatic events happen in schools, such as the shooting that took place yesterday at Freeman High School in Rockford, WA, it can be difficult for educators to know how to start a dialogue with students. The resources below prepare educators to provide the support and guidance students need to process the event and confront their questions and feelings.

    • "The Best Resources On Talking With Children About Tragedies”: Education blogger Larry Ferlazzo’s collection of recommended resources on talking with children about tragedies. 
    • Helping Kids During Crisis: Assembled by the American School Counselor Association, the webinars, websites, and publications on this exhaustive list aid in emotional recovery after a crisis.
    • How to Talk to Children About Shootings: The Today Show’s age-by-age guides help educators and parents in addressing tragedies with children.
    • "Resources: Talking and Teaching About the Shooting in Newtown, Conn.": Published by The New York Times, this article, written in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, outlines classroom activities to help educators empower students to discuss the event, write about their reactions, and take action.
    • Responding to Tragedy: Resources for Educators and Parents: Edutopia offers a compilation of useful, informative, and thoughtful resources for helping children through traumatic situations.
    • School Crisis Guide: Created by the National Education Association, this step-by-step guide makes it easier for education professionals to implement effective leadership, crisis management, and long-term mental health support—before, during, and after a crisis.
    • School Violence Prevention: Tips for Parents & Educators: Produced by the National Association of School Psychologists, this toolkit offers advice on how to restore students’ comfort and empower them to play a role in their own safety.
    • Taking Aim at Violence in Schools”: Originally published by The New York Times in 1999 after the school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, these lesson plans encourage students to share, through discussion and writing, their feelings about violence in schools, as well as about ways in which such events could be prevented.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Celebrating International Literacy Day in Nigeria With 30 Under 30 Honoree Seun Aina

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 08, 2017

    Magical BooksSeptember 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day (ILD) by UNESCO in 1965 to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities, and societies. This year’s theme of “Literacy in a Digital World highlights the challenges and opportunities in promoting literacy in the digital age.

    In Ibadan, Nigeria, a group of students celebrated ILD and embraced this year’s theme of “Literacy in a Digital World” by Skyping with award-winning author Kathy Brodsky from more than 5,000 miles away, says Oluwaseun “Seun” Aina, 2015 ILA 30 Under 30 honoree and founder of Magical Books.

    Aina met Brodsky at the ILA 2016 Conference & Exhibits. After learning more about Magical Books and meeting the students via Skype, Brodsky donated a complete collection of her books to the organization, which promotes lifelong reading habits and learning attitudes among children and young adults.

    Since the start of the Magical Books Summer Reading Challenge on August 7, Aina’s students, ages 5–14, have been reading Brodsky’s books and writing letters to the author. Aina says this communication has made them more inspired and excited about their own writing and reading projects.

    “She shared with them how she became a reader, how it changed her life, what reading can do for them. She passed on some knowledge that those children will never forget. That’s what I see in the future to create lifelong readers and learners to impact that generation,” says Aina.

    Aina believes societal values and weak government support are among the main barriers to literacy in Nigeria, where the overall adult literacy rate is estimated at 56.9%. Through her work, Aina is advancing her vision of a country that celebrates literacy and ensures that every child can read, write, and speak.

    “It’s not as valued as it should be. I think the challenge is—even the government—they don’t celebrate literacy the way it should be celebrated,” she says. “You have singing competitions being celebrated more than educational programs. If the government officials are not celebrating literacy and don’t appreciate it—how much more can we?”

    Aina’s long-term goal is to establish a communal literacy center with a full library, bookstore, and comfortable reading “nooks” that encourage reading for pleasure.

    “Children who haven’t gotten the essence of reading...they will,” she says. “I’m reimagining a literacy center where students don’t want to leave.”

    In recognition of ILD, we invite you to nominate a literacy champion for ILA’s next 30 Under 30 list. Founded in 2015, the program shines a spotlight on young innovators, disruptors, and visionaries who are leading efforts to overcome the challenges of today’s education field and to advance our vision of a literate world for all. If you know someone who is under the age of 30 (as of March 1, 2019) and who has shown extraordinary dedication to ILA’s mission, we invite you to complete a short nomination form here. All nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 1, 2018.  

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of
    Literacy Daily.

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    Celebrating International Literacy Day in Liberia With 30 Under 30 Honoree Ben Freeman

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 08, 2017

    LIPACESeptember 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day (ILD) by UNESCO in 1965 to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities, and societies. This year’s theme of “Literacy in a Digital World highlights the challenges and opportunities in promoting literacy in the digital age.

    In Liberia, students are more likely to own a mobile phone than a textbook, according to Benjamin Freeman, 2015 ILA 30 Under 30 honoree and founder of The Liberia Institute for the Promotion of Academic Excellence (LIPACE), a nonprofit that uses data-driven approaches to increase student achievement.

    “Just imagine: For every 27 students in Liberia, there is only one textbook. This means for every 1,000 students, only four students will have the required core subjects textbooks collection,” says Freeman. “It is nearly four times cheaper to own a mobile phone in Liberia than a set of primary school textbooks, and nearly six times cheaper than a set of secondary school textbooks.”

    Without access to these textbooks, students have a very low chance of passing the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) exam, which determines if they will pursue further education after secondary school. Typically, only 50% of students pass.

    Enter LIPACE’s latest initiative: iSolve. Still a work in progress, iSolve is Liberia’s first mobile system for accessing educational content. Through text message requests, students will have access to learning materials across all grade levels and core subjects, a comprehensive exam preparation guide, exam practice questions, performance scores, and help from “expert teachers.”

    Freeman hopes iSolve will help fill the gaps in Liberia’s education system, lingering wounds from a 14-year civil war. Despite the country’s progress, schools are still characterized by inadequate infrastructure, insufficient staff and supplies, and outdated teaching methods. The overall youth and adult literacy rates both fall below 50%.

    “In this period of socioeconomic renewal, it is imperative for Liberians not only to reverse the brain drain but also to address the systemic collapse of our educational system,” says Freeman. “I founded LIPACE based on the belief that a nation’s human capital is its most important resource.”

    In recognition of ILD, we invite you to nominate a literacy champion for ILA’s next 30 Under 30 list. Founded in 2015, the program shines a spotlight on young innovators, disruptors, and visionaries who are leading efforts to overcome the challenges of today’s education field and to advance our vision of a literate world for all. If you know someone who is under the age of 30 (as of March 1, 2019) and who has shown extraordinary dedication to ILA’s mission, we invite you to complete a short nomination form here. All nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 1, 2018.

    Alina O'Donnell is the editor of
    Literacy Daily.

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