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    ILA Now Accepting Proposals for ILA Intensive: Nevada

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Dec 11, 2018
    ILA Intensive: Nevada

    ILA is accepting session abstracts for ILA Intensive: Nevada, a two-day professional learning event focused on recognizing and addressing biases in literacy instruction, now through January 6, 2019.

    Designed and delivered by literacy educators, Intensives offer more personal, in-depth, and hands-on learning experiences where participants will learn the latest research and strategies while connecting and networking with like-minded practitioners.

    The upcoming Intensive, taking place June 21–22, 2019, in Las Vegas, NV, is designed to help educators create classroom and school environments that are diverse, inclusive, affirming, and culturally sensitive.

    ILA encourages abstract submissions that provide attendees with practical skills and tools they can immediately apply in their practice. Submissions should demonstrate a clear connection to the theme of Equity and Access to Literacy; highlight current research and best practices; and include participatory elements. Please review the submission guidelines for more detailed instructions for abstract submission.

    All presenters are responsible for their ILA Intensive: Nevada registration fees and any expenses associated with the presentation, including attendance at the event. Note that due to the small size of the program and the interactive format of this event, the selection process will be highly competitive.

    Click here to learn more about ILA Intensive: Nevada. For questions related to the event or the abstract submission process, contact

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Key Ingredients for a Successful ILA 2019 Conference Proposal

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Sep 24, 2018

    Conference Proposal GuideILA’s annual conference is a great forum to share your research and findings, network with prominent individuals in your field, and put your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in literacy education. Because of this, our proposal submission is a highly competitive process, with only an estimated 30% of submissions accepted each year.

    That kind of competition puts means that those looking to get on the peer-reviewed program have to step up their proposal game. After all, the proposal is the one shot you have to “sell” your idea and secure your place in the ILA 2019 Conference program.

    Here are some tips for putting your best proposal forward:

    Educate yourself on what reviewers are looking for. Carefully review the submission guidelines and five-point scoring rubric and be aware of expectations.

    Ground your proposal in research. Reviewers are looking for proof that your proposal is powered by research and evidence-based practice. Include references and citations where needed.

    Show the applicability. Don’t just summarize your research; emphasize its larger significance. What are the implications of your findings? How might this be implemented into practice? What will attendees know by the end of the session?  Clearly state the takeaways.

    Be fresh but relevant. While you want to contribute to what’s trending, you also want to offer fresh perspective and insights. Choose a topic that’s timely, relevant, and important to the field, but still brings a unique angle to the conversation. This will help your proposal stand out.

    Punch up your title. Your title is often the first (and sometimes only) thing attendees will look for when choosing sessions. Give your session a provocative title that piques the reader’s interest while accurately describing the session. For example, “‘That Never Happens at Home!’ Cultivating Collaboration Between Educators and Families of Students With Special Needs” accomplishes both objectives.

    Don’t bury the lead. A well-written session description has two goals: entice the reviewers into accepting your submission and get attendees into the seats. A person should be able to skim the description and feel confident about what will be covered. The fundamental “why” should be clearly articulated.   

    Pitch yourself. Generally speaking, proposals that make reviewers want to attend the session are scored more favorably. Imagine your session is on the schedule, but the presenter is someone else. You’ve decided to go, and you really want your colleagues to join. How would you convince them to go?  

    Set the tone. Delivery matters. Couch your content in a way that conveys your enthusiasm for the topic without compromising formality. Avoid specialized jargon and make sure your prose is clear, straightforward, and engaging.

    Choose your format carefully.  As an educator, you’re accustomed to offering students differentiated learning opportunities. Submissions must be made in one of five session types: preconference institute, hands-on workshop, session, panel, and poster presentation. Take a thoughtful look at the format descriptions and think about how your topic and findings might most effectively be shared with your audience. This also applies to picking a category, strand, and target audience for your session.

    Be concise. A successful proposal will clearly and succinctly answer the basic questions of Who? What? Where? Why? How? Active words are key.

    Proofread, edit, and double-check. Mechanical errors can be distracting and may lead reviewers to question your commitment or competence. The presenter and all copresenters should take time to screen the proposal for spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. Afterward, ask colleagues to proofread, not only for errors but also for confusing statements. Give them enough background about the conference, the expected audience, and your topic, so that they can deliver actionable feedback.

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    ILA’s First-Ever Children’s Literature Day Brings Message of Hope Full Circle

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 27, 2018
    Marley Dias and Kwame Alexander If we learned anything at the ILA 2018 Conference, it’s that changemaking work is fueled by two feelings: hope and frustration. This year’s theme, Be a Changemaker, was about identifying a problem, and finding the tools, connections, and strategies needed to drive a solution.

    And there’s perhaps no greater harbinger of hope than 14-year-old Marley Dias, the face of the next generation of changemakers. 

    The inaugural Children’s Literature Day opened with a message of hope when Dias took the stage to deliver the opening keynote. Dias reflected on how she turned her frustration about the books she was seeing in school, which offered no mirrors but rather windows that “only opened up to one place and one type of experience”—that of white boys and their dogs—into a movement. She started the #1000BlackGirlBooksProject, a campaign to collect 1,000 books with black girl protagonists that she would then donate to libraries around the country.

    “That singular and exclusive experience frustrated me, and I decided to do something about it,” she said.

    She has since collected more than 12,000 books, appeared on the Ellen Show, interviewed Hillary Clinton, and written her first book, Marley Dias Gets It Done. Dias spoke about the importance of diverse books, inspiring activism in young people, and embracing difference.

    “Reading allows us to see the humanity in others who are not like us,” she said. “Embracing difference is essential if you want to be a changemaker.”

    “Each of us has a magic inside of us that we can use to make the world a better place.”

    The New York Times bestselling-author Kwame Alexander joined her onstage for a Q&A session that was equal parts funny and poignant. The two discussed their new books, their shared love of poetry, and the age-old war between Nigerian and Ghanaian jollof rice.   

    Attendees then dispersed for the morning session of author meetups, panels, and signings. Four categories of meetups (Early Reader, Middle Grade, Early Young Adult, and Older Young Adult) featured a mix of up-and-comers and well-established veterans, including Megan McDonald, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Peter H. Reynolds.

    During a new event, the Latinx panel, moderator Oralia Garza de Cortés, cofounder of the American Library Association's Pura Belpré Award, lead a discussion with four authors whose works celebrate Latinx family culture. They tackled questions of identity and stereotyping, authentic cultural voice, and “the single story.”

    After attendees reconvened at noon for a formal lunch, former ILA Board member Julie Scullen took the stage next to present the ILA Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards. Following was a keynote by fifth-grade teacher and Nerdy Book Club founder Colby Sharp, who made the audience laugh and cry as he shared videos from his mock Caldecott unit, which showed students’ celebratory cries and looks of defeat when the actual award winners were announced. 

    He spoke about how to inspire a lifelong love of reading in young people, the value of family and community engagement; and the importance of leading by example.

    “We have a responsibility to make sure a kid never feels like a level, to make sure kids feel like readers, and to make sure kids have all the books,” he said. 

    After an afternoon of more meetups, panels, and signings, Alexander returned to the stage to deliver a dynamic closing keynote. He recited original poetry and shared videos of his first poetry workshop held in a juvenile detention center, an experience that showed him how language can empower and effect change. 

    Alexander brought the message of hope full circle when he shared the fruits of his own changemaker work: the Literacy Empowerment and Action Project, a health clinic and library in the rural village of Konko, Ghana, that facilitates student scholarship opportunities, literacy training for teachers, girls’ empowerment workshops, and career development projects. He closed ILA 2018 on an inspiring note.

    “Read the change. Be the change. Share the change. Make the change.”

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.
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    ILA Recognizes Top Children's and Young Adult Titles at Annual Awards Ceremony

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 25, 2018

    CLD Awards CeremonyILA announced the winners of the ILA Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards on Monday at the ILA 2018 Conference in Austin, TX.

    The books on this year’s list comprise a wide range of genres and styles, transport readers around the world to places such as Cuba and Iran, and explore edifying themes, including mental illness, family life and tradition, and racial prejudice and police brutality.

    In its 43rd year, the awards program recognizes newly published authors who show exceptional promise in the children’s and young adult book fields. Awards were presented for fiction and nonfiction in each of three categories: primary, intermediate, and young adult.

    "Notable authors like Laurence Yep (winner of the formerly named Laura Ingalls Wilder Award), Christopher Paul Curtis (three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award) and Lois Lowry (winner of two Newberry Medals for Number the Stars and The Giver) were recognized with this award early in their illustrious careers,” said teaching and learning specialist and past ILA Board member Julie Scullen, who presented the awards.

    The 2018 award winners are:

    Primary Fiction

    Winner: The Book of Mistakes. Corinna Luyken. 2017. Dial.

    Honor: Little Fox in the Forest. Stephanie Graegin. 2017. Schwartz & Wade.

    Primary Nonfiction

    Winner: This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World. Matt Lamothe. 2017. Chronicle.

    Intermediate Fiction

    Winner: Train I Ride. Paul Mosier. 2017. HarperCollins.

    Honor: The Notations of Cooper Cameron. Jane O’Reilly. 2017. Carolrhoda.

    Intermediate Nonfiction

    Winner: Marti’s Song for Freedom. Emma Otheguy. 2017. Lee & Low.

    Young Adult Fiction

    Winner: Words on Bathroom Walls. Julia Walton. 2017. Random House.

    Honor: The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. 2017. HarperCollins.

    Young Adult Nonfiction

    Winner: Obsessed: A Memoir of My Life With OCD. Allison Britz. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    “Congratulations to all of our award winners,” said Scullen. “I’m excited to get all of these books into the hands of young readers.”

    Additional information on ILA’s awards can be found here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    ILA 2018 Equity in Education Panel Helps Educators Create Inclusive Spaces for LGBTQ Students

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jul 24, 2018
    Equity in Education Panel 2018

    For the audience of ILA’s Equity in Education panel, Literacy and Our LGBTQ Students: Starting and Sustaining Schoolwide Transformation, which took place this weekend at the ILA 2018 Conference in Austin, TX, the message was clear: If you want to create a school climate where LGBTQ students feel comfortable, start with empathy.
    Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group focused entirely on K–12 education, delivered the opening keynote, weaving her personal narrative with statistics about LGBTQ risk factors.

    “Today, I’m here as a lesbian who grew up in the U.S., whose life was saved by my relationship with books,” she said. “I simply want to say how much it means to be here with people whose work is dedicated to unlocking the incredible joys of literacy for children now, because it meant the world to me.”
    Byard also discussed GLSEN’s recent initiatives in response to the wave of discriminatory legislation attempted to roll-back efforts for LGBTQ equity. The organization has been a leading advocate for the repeal of so-called “no promo homo laws” that ban teachers from discussing LGBTQ topics in a positive light. Texas is one of seven states where these laws are still in effect—a fact that Byard used to underline the urgency of their work.
    “Change is possible; individuals can make a difference,” she said. “You cannot improve school climate if you don’t take these issues on.”
    She then opened the conversation to the panelists: Kris De Pedro, assistant professor at the College of Educational Studies at Chapman University; Amy Fabrikant, staff developer at the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility; Courtney Farrell, founder of The Journey Project; Jessica Lifschitz, Heinemann Scholar and fifth-grade teacher; Kate Roberts, author and literacy consultant; Dana Stachowiak, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; and Tim’m West, senior managing director of the LGBTQ Community Initiative at Teach for America. 

    After introducing  themselves and stating their preferred pronouns, they spent the next hour unpacking and strategizing on a wide range of LGBTQ issues in education, from language to libraries.
    The danger of staying silent
    When asked about their first steps toward creating an LGBTQ-inclusive school climate, several panelists shared their own journeys of self-acceptance. 
    Stachowiak spent much of her teaching career wearing dresses and heels, skirting questions about her personal life, and avoiding LGBTQ topics in the classroom. Ultimately, it was a conversation with a student that inspired her to embrace her authentic self at work. 
    “A little girl in my classroom who had been really spunky and really gifted academically just started to go downhill and got quiet. I found out through her peers that she had been writing love letters to other girls in the classroom, and they were uncomfortable with that. I didn’t know what to do because I felt like if I supported her, I would be outed," she said. “I made it all about me at that moment—there was wanting to protect my student and there was wanting to protect myself, and that kind of overshadowed, unfortunately.”
    When the school counselor failed to take action and the student’s social and emotional well-being continued to decline, Stachowiak realized it was time for her to overcome her fears and focus on the needs of the student confiding in her. 
    “I just said, you know what? I can’t just continue to watch this happen,” she said. “That was me, as a kid.”

    Stachowiak’s story sparked a conversation about the dangers of silencing these topics in the classroom and addressed concerns about parent, administrator, or community pushback. 

    “There are a bunch of schools where the adults haven't moved to the same degree as our young people have,” said Roberts. “And I think that’s because, and others will echo, we’re terrified of the parents, we’re so scared of parent communities complaining.”

    Roberts reminded the audience that they can be loud, too.

    “We can complain too, right? We can be the annoying flashing light that someone’s terrified of, being like, ‘Why don’t you have more books that represent all kids? Why isn’t your curriculum more inclusive?’ I don’t think we do become that squeaky wheel enough,” she said. “So the loudest person in the community is the bigoted one.”

    Creating social-emotional benchmarks
    Before coming out to his students, West had to overcome his own perception of what it means to be a role model, a responsibility he cherished as one of the few black, male educators in his district.
    “Often when we talk about how our young boys need strong, black men [role models], there’s a lot of gendering and homophobia associated with that,” he said. “It may not be pronounced, but the assumption is that you’re masculine, of center, and heterosexual.”
    West reached his tipping point when he heard his students using the word “gay” as an insult. Instead of reacting, he decided to use that moment as a learning opportunity; he asked the students to clarify what they meant and, as a class, they read aloud the dictionary definition of the word. 

    His next step was to openly identify with that word. 
    “The power of my own decision to come out in that setting was just remarkable. After that, the way that they treated each other, the way they dealt with things, was so much different,” said West. “We had created a culture, in that classroom, in that school—where being gay was really awesome.”

    To West, this experience highlights the need for more social and emotional development work in the classroom. He wants to see more open, respectful dialogue around these topics.

    “When we talk about teaching and testing, when we talk about benchmarks—where are people and where do we want them to grow—we have to do the same thing around social-emotional competencies—not only for our students, but for our teachers.” 

    Students can be teachers, too  

    There was a consensus among all of the panelists about the importance of trusting in students’ wisdom and opening spaces for them to lead inclusivity efforts.

    “I think it’s important to remind ourselves that students come to school with incredible funds of knowledge,” said De Pedro. “In many ways, our students are more sophisticated and more involved than the teachers and the adults in our schools. Our students are teachers too; they can actually lead in these efforts.”

    Farrell said educators should focus on demonstrating they are truly listening by turning students’ words into actions. 

    “It’s learning what it is that the children need from us. Opening up spaces to say, ‘What would you like? What do you seek? What are your experiences?’” she said. “And whenever we open up spaces to hear, and they give us information, following it by action. So saying, “What you say matters, and here’s what we’re going to do about it.’”

    You don’t know what you don’t know

    Byard closed the panel by asking the panelists to share an action item for attendees to take back to their practices. 

    “I would echo the idea that it starts with us, recognizing that we don’t know what we don’t know,” said Farrell. “To dig deep into spaces that we may not have personally lived ourselves. So, a lot of listening, a lot of research, a lot of introspection, a lot of reading.”

    De Pedro similarly encouraged the audience to continuously challenge their assumptions and to seek new ways of knowing. 

    “Admitting you don’t know something and admitting you’re wrong are the two most powerful things educators can—and should—do,” he said.

    Fabrikant urged educators hold regular check-ins where students can discuss their feelings.

    "Just to know what everyone is bringing into the room," she said. "I really do believe in having a space just to share what’s alive in us."

    Panelists also discussed the importance of intersectional thinking, using conscious language, and fully integrating LGBTQ topics into the curriculum.
    Stachowiak closed the conversation with a powerful call to action. 

    “We need to be those voices to say, ‘Yes I can, and yes I will.’ Believe in yourselves that you can do this work and you’re not alone. Even if it’s just starting with you, just look around this room—this is a room full of accomplices,” she said. “This is where the revolution starts.”
    The livestreamed conversation, sponsored by Heinemann Publishing, was archived on ILA’s Facebook page and can be viewed here

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 

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