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    “He’ll Be Our Inspiration, Still”: Remembering Robert B. Ruddell, Former IRA Board Member and Influential Author

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Mar 25, 2021

    Robert B. RuddellRobert B. Ruddell, professor emeritus at University of California, Berkeley, and a noted scholar of early reading comprehension, critical thinking, and motivation, died on March 14. He was 83.

    Ruddell was a prolific writer and editor perhaps most known for How to Teach Reading to Elementary and Middle School Students: Practical Ideas From Highly Effective Teachers (Pearson) as well as Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading, the first six editions of which were published by the International Reading Association (IRA, now ILA). It is now in its seventh edition as Theoretical Models and Processes of Literacy, published by Routledge.

    A past Board member of IRA, Ruddell also served as president of the Reading Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 1989. He was a recipient of the William S. Gray Citation of Merit, ILA’s highest honor reserved for lifetime achievement and leadership contributions to the field, as well as the Oscar S. Causey Research Award from the Literacy Research Association.

    “The news of the loss of Bob Ruddell, who has brought so much to us in the past, brings great sadness,” said Norman Unrau, professor emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, and a coeditor with Ruddell on the latest editions of Theoretical Models. “During the years Bob and I worked together, I learned immeasurably from his approaches to problems in literacy research and to methods of presenting them to those in our field. And I know that there are countless educators who have benefited from his spirit and will be saddened by his loss.”

    Among those educators is MaryEllen Vogt, a past president of IRA, who was advised by Ruddell when she earned her doctorate in language and literacy from University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). She recalls the day she received her acceptance letter from him as life changing.

    “To be Bob’s advisee was the best of all worlds as a graduate student,” she said. “He seemed to know everyone in the reading world and pushed me to know them all, too….His jovial approach to life, his friendship, and his unwavering belief that all kids can learn to read have molded me into the reading teacher I am today.”

    Ruddell exceeded in academics early on, finishing high school at just 14 and becoming the youngest student ever to enroll at Morris Harvey College, now Charleston University, at 15. He went on to earn an undergraduate and master’s from West Virginia University, and his PhD from Indiana University.

    He was 26 when he joined UC Berkeley, his academic home for the next 35 years.

    During his time at UC Berkeley, Ruddell served as acting dean of education at Tolman Hall, directed the Advanced Reading-Language Leadership Program, and served as chair of the Language, Literacy, and Culture faculty group. He worked with 86 doctoral students, advising and directing their research and dissertations.

    “He has left a great legacy to the study of reading, not only through his scholarship, but also through his many books for teachers, his leadership in the International Reading Association, and—perhaps most of all—his intellectually rigorous and interpersonally generous mentoring of the next generation of PhD students at Berkeley,” said P. David Pearson, emeritus faculty member at UC Berkeley. “When the topic of language and literacy in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley comes up, Robert Ruddell is the first name that comes to my mind.”

    His passing marks a great loss for the literacy world, but as Donna Alvermann, distinguished research professor of language and literacy education at University of Georgia and a coeditor on Theoretical Models said, his legacy will live on. “I know how hard he worked to support teachers and graduate students from across the country. My coeditors and I will miss working with Bob….He’ll be our inspiration, still.”

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the managing editor of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    Planning for the Day After: Talking to Students About Traumatic Events

    ILA Staff
     | Jan 15, 2021

    “What were some of your day afters?” asked Matthew R. Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, at the beginning of ILA’s free digital event on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

    Kay’s session, “‘What Will We Say to Them Tomorrow?’: Tackling Tough Conversations in the Classroom” is available on demand for free on ILA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

    Answers from the nearly 1,000 educators participating in Tuesday’s webinar came pouring in: Columbine. 9/11. Sandy Hook. The Boston Marathon bombing. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

    In the days after the violent insurrection that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, educators grappled with how to address the attack in their classrooms—or if they even should. Students ask questions, of course. How would educators answer them?

    Kay took to Twitter the day after, giving advice and reminding fellow educators that students need engagement and substance, not quick fixes.



    Those looking for with additional resources from Kay may be interested in the following:

    Follow Kay on Twitter, where he regularly shares valuable resources from others.


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    ILA’s 30 Under 30 List Honors Emerging Leaders in 12 Countries

    By ILA Staff
     | Jan 11, 2021
    30 Under 30 collage

    ILA released its biennial 30 Under 30 list today, an initiative that shines a spotlight on the next generation of leaders who are working to create positive change in the global literacy landscape.

    The 2021 list of honorees includes educators, nonprofit leaders, authors, volunteers, researchers, and social entrepreneurs. Though their roles may differ, they all belong to a growing cohort of young innovators, disrupters, and visionaries in the field.

    “The start of 2021 is filled with much promise thanks to the work of this year’s class of honorees,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Their work—whether it’s research on multicultural literacy, helping young students find the power of their voice, or dismantling systems of oppression in education—is impacting the lives of countless individuals and communities. Not only do these emerging leaders share in our mission of literacy for all, but also they are helping to ensure that the post-COVID era, when we get there, will be grounded in equity for all.”

    Representing 12 countries, this year’s list celebrates emerging leaders such as

    • Patrick Harris, 27, founder of Good Trouble Media and humanities teacher at The Roeper School in Michigan, U.S., who helped transform his middle school English department into a humanities program geared toward preparing students to tackle social justice issues. Through his media company, he also creates education-focused podcasts, most notably The Common Sense Podcast, in which he and his cohost showcased the highs and lows of being Black teachers.
    • Ondřej Kania, 28, CEO/cofounder of JK Education in the Czech Republic, which began as an advisory organization for students in Central Europe by assisting them with obtaining scholarships and financial aid to attend schools in the United States. Now, the organization is working to transform the education system in the Czech Republic and Slovakia with the founding of four schools grounded in personalized, project-based learning.
    • Havana Chapman-Edwards, 10, founder/executive director of Girls Have Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, whose youth-powered nonprofit aims to eliminate barriers to girls’ education. Chapman-Edwards, the youngest honoree on this year’s list, has raised more than $40,000 for girls around the globe for items such as books, school supplies, toiletries, and transportation.

    ILA’s 2021 30 Under 30 list also includes the following individuals: 

    • Saurabh Anand, 28, Graduate Student Research Assistantship Fellow, University of Georgia, Georgia, U.S.
    • Anna Bjork, 28, English Language Learner Teacher, Minnetonka Public Schools, Minnesota, U.S.
    • Ryan Brady, 18, Founder, Hippkids, Ohio, U.S.
    • Candace Chambers, 27, CEO, Educational Writing Services; PhD Student, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
    • Jimmie Chengo, 23, Founder/Executive Director, Afribuk Society, Kajiado, Kenya
    • Cedric Christian Ngnaoussi Elongué, 27, Founder/Executive Director, Muna Kalati, Accra, Ghana
    • Enwongo-Abasi Francis, 24, Ambassador, World Literacy Foundation, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria
    • Seth French, 29, English Language Arts Teacher, Bentonville High School, Arkansas, U.S.
    • Shayla Glass-Thompson, 28, Literacy and Language Equity Specialist, Badger Ridge Middle School, Wisconsin, U.S.
    • Tiyana Herring, 23, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Kate Sullivan Elementary School; Graduate Student, Florida State University, Florida, U.S.
    • Tori Hill, 27, Executive Director, Writers and Artists Across the Country, California, U.S.
    • Mahdi Housaini, 25, Founder, Parande Library, Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan
    • Jigyasa Labroo, 28, Founder/CEO, Slam Out Loud, Dharamshala, India
    • Roman Lay, 28, English/Drama Teacher, Alcoa High School, Tennessee, U.S.
    • Andrea Liao, 18, Founder/President, Book the Future, Washington, U.S.
    • Josephine Lichaha, 28, Teacher, Go Ye Therefore, Livingstone, Zambia
    • Austin Martin, 25, Creator/Director, Rhymes With Reason, California, U.S.
    • Simpson Muhwezi, 29, Founder/Creative Director, Wandiika Literacy Initiative, Kampala, Uganda
    • Erin O'Neil, 26, Founder, Fishtail Publishing, Ohio, U.S.
    • Akash Patel, 28, Spanish Teacher, Ignite Middle School; Founder, Happy World Foundation, Texas, U.S.
    • Rebecca Quiñones, 28, Second-Grade Spanish Dual Language Teacher, P.S. 139, New York, U.S.
    • Zachery Ramos, 21, President/Founder, Traveling Library, California, U.S.
    • Dwayne Reed, 29, Fourth-/Fifth-Grade English Language Arts Teacher, Chicago Public Schools; CEO, Teach Mr. Reed, Illinois, U.S.
    • Kelsey Reynolds, 25, Literacy and Education Advocate, California, U.S.
    • Mari Sawa, 29, Literacy Specialist, Earth8ight School, Okayama, Japan
    • Olivia Van Ledtje, 12, Founder, LivBits, New Hampshire, U.S.
    • Tien-Hao Yen, 29, Founder, LIS Education, New Taipei City, Taiwan

    ILA’s 30 Under 30 honorees are featured in the January/February 2021 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s bimonthly magazine, which published today. To view the Literacy Today feature and read more about the honorees’ accomplishments, visit

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    ILA 2021 Conference Canceled; In-Person Conferences Remain Paused

    By ILA Staff
     | Jan 04, 2021

    ILA2021Cancelled_680The International Literacy Association (ILA) announced last week that it is cancelling the 2021 Conference, scheduled to take place in Indianapolis, IN, October 12–17.

    The move came just as the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the United Kingdom. With the possibility of mass distribution to the general population as early as June 2021, some may see the call to cancel premature.

    Not so, says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post.

    “At this time, there’s no way to ensure the health and safety of conference participants, including our exhibitors, vendors, and staff,” she says. “It’s a gamble we did not feel comfortable taking.”

    Early response to the decision has been positive, with many expressing gratitude for the proactive approach.

    ILA plans to expand its robust slate of digital events in 2021. It’s also exploring new ways for educators to present outside of the conventional conference setting and to share their work with a wider global audience.

    The pandemic forced us to rethink how we teach, learning, and engage,” Post says. “Now we need to make sure we embrace what worked and not simply return to the old way of doing things.”

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    Celebrating the Literacy Champions We Lost in 2020

    ILA Staff
     | Dec 23, 2020

    As the year comes to a close, reflecting back on the last 12 months is natural. For many people, 2020 was a particularly challenging year. As we at ILA look to a brighter future in 2021, we want to recognize and honor the literacy champions to whom we said goodbye this year. These teachers, researchers, and literacy leaders dedicated their lives to the advancement of the field of literacy, and we are grateful for their service and commitment to transforming lives through literacy.

    ConnerCarol McDonald Connor, chancellor's professor of education at the University of California Irvine School of Education, whose life’s work centered on studying language and literacy development


    DurkinMary Dolores Durkin, professor emerita of Education in the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and a recipient of ILA’s William S. Gray Citation of Merit Award, which honors ILA members who have made outstanding contributions to multiple facets of literacy development


    EdwardsWilliam L. Edwards, professor of Teacher Education at Missouri Southern State University, and a longtime member of ILA who traveled to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mauritius, and Malawi in his efforts to extend the mission of the International Literacy Association

    KennethGoodman_w140Kenneth S. Goodman, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona and a past president of the International Reading Association (now International Literacy Association), who has been referred to as “the founding father of the whole language approach to reading”


    Indrisano_w140Roselmina “Lee” Indrisano, professor emerita at Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development and a past president of the International Reading Association, whose work around issues related to early literacy development and enhancement of struggling readers and their families was widely recognized

    MacGinitieWalter H. MacGinitie, a noted educator recognized for his groundbreaking research in reading comprehension, who not only received the Reading Teachers’ Award for contributions to the field of reading from the New York State Reading Association but also served as a president of the International Reading Association.


    Judy Redman, educator, administrator, and matriarch of the Palmetto State Literacy Association, who has been honored with the creation of the Judy Redman Lifetime Achievement Award, which is presented for outstanding literacy service

    SamuelsS. Jay Samuels, whose may accomplishments and contributions to the field of literacy include coauthoring alongside Alan E. Farstrup the International Reading Association’s What Research Has to Say About… series of book


    SchmeltzBonnie Schmeltz, reading teacher, principal, and former president of State of Maryland Literacy Association (SoMLA), and a dedicated advocate for literacy instruction who ensured all children had access to books


    Strickland_w140Dorothy S. Strickland, state of New Jersey professor of reading, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor professor of education, emerita, at Rutgers University, a past president of the International Reading Association, and a renowned advocate of equitable literacy instruction and of improving the quality of teacher education programs and professional development


    Judith Thelen, professor, literacy advocate, and a past president of the International Reading Association, whose work in reading received national and international recognition


    WellsGordon Wells, educator emeritus at University of California Santa Cruz, whose work focused on sociocultural theories of learning


    We know this is far from a comprehensive list of the great many literacy leaders who have passed away this year. Our hearts go out to the friends, families, and communities affected by their passing. The world is a better place for their efforts, and their example serves as an inspiration to us in our own work.

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