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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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    Overcoming Racial Injustice: A Call to Action

    By ILA Staff
     | Jun 19, 2020

    We Stand for Racial JusticeIn response to the tragic murder of George Floyd on May 25, there have been widespread demonstrations around the world calling for systemic changes to end racial injustices. The editorial teams from our three academic journals Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, and The Reading Teacher composed a joint statement about how to counter the racism within the academic setting. Below are the four steps identified by the ILA academic editorial teams, why each is important, and how ILA’s journals will rise to these challenges.

    1. Acknowledge, value, and support BIPOC colleagues and students.

    This work involves learning about histories of oppression, practicing anti-racist behaviors, and participating in just causes. It also involves looking beyond traditional research positions to see value in challenges to hegemonic positions and expansion of research methods. Last, it involves mentoring as well as actively promoting and collaborating with BIPOC scholars.

    ILA’s journals will activate this by promoting and supporting BIPOC scholars, including authors and editorial board members. We will do this by disseminating the work of BIPOC scholars through social media and other distribution outlets, as well as by providing more mentoring support to BIPOC scholars who hope to publish in ILA’s journals.

    2. Find ways to encourage and initiate more literacy research submissions that focus on supporting BIPOC communities.

    As journal editors, we are calling for manuscripts that provide deeper and better understandings of literacy and its role vis-à-vis BIPOC communities. We specifically ask researchers to submit manuscripts that highlight the voices and experiences of marginalized students, teachers, and underrepresented communities, as well as take a strength-based view.

    We have worked to make ILA journals a place where all methods and perspectives can find a home, but we are not receiving the volume of submissions needed in this vein. Recruiting and serving as reviewers allows us to fast-track submissions and adjudicate work with as much speed as we are capable.

    3. Get involved in efforts to fund more literacy research that addresses inequities across racial groups.

    All funding agencies depend on us as literacy researchers to tell them what work is worthy of recognition and support. We can and should make this a priority. ILA journals will support this by publishing more work by BIPOC scholars that attends to experiences of marginalized communities, which we hope will fuel interest and support of scholars applying for such grants.

    4. Increase the quality of literacy instruction grounded in representative curricular materials supported by research that addresses the specific needs of BIPOC teachers and students.

    Right now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional literacy instruction for students from nondominant communities has to a large extent ceased or slackened. Unless we can figure out ways to better provide this instruction (through digital devices, access to the internet, curriculum that meets the needs of BIPOC students), the literacy learning needs of BIPOC students will suffer. Again, we believe that our community of literacy researchers is uniquely well-positioned to address this need.

    Robert T. Jiménez and Amanda Goodwin
    Editors, Reading Research Quarterly

    Kelly Chandler-Olcott and Kathleen A. Hinchman
    Editors, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy

    Robin Griffith and Jan Lacina
    Editors, The Reading Teacher

    Marcie Craig Post
    ILA Executive Director

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    Challenging Eurocentric Perspectives and Practices in Literacy Education

    By Etta Hollins
     | Jun 11, 2020

    Etta HollinsWe received this letter from ILA member Etta Hollins, who granted her permission to publish it on Literacy Now. Thank you, Professor Hollins, for your thoughtful contribution and call to action.

    The police killing of George Floyd has brought discussions of systemic racism to the forefront. Colleges, universities, professional organizations, major companies of every description, and regular citizens have acknowledged the presence of systemic racism in the society and many have written letters to students, colleagues, and employees supporting the protests and making a commitment to equity and social justice. It is time for educational practitioners, scholars, and researchers to engage in introspection regarding systemic racism in teaching practices, teacher preparation, and educational research. We can begin this discussion by acknowledging barriers in African American people’s struggle for literacy.

    African American people’s struggle for literacy in the United States has been long, difficult, and framed by the barriers of systemic racism in pedagogical practices, educational research, and legal authority. During slavery, it was illegal to teach slaves to read. Yet, out of slavery came such notable individuals as educator Booker T. Washington and scientist George Washington Carver. The often-inferior facilities, resources, and materials provided in segregated schools after slavery produced notable scholars and leaders of the Civil Rights movement including the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Congressman John Lewis, and many education practitioners, scholars, and researchers. In the face of this historical background, many education practitioners, scholars, and researchers make the claims that African American children are unable to learn to read because they lack the necessary home environment, role models, access to printed texts, and vocabulary. These are nonsensical claims given the fact that many children learned to read while experiencing the trauma of slavery.

    Today, the struggle for African American children’s literacy is as challenging as its difficult history. Teachers are trained in recently mandated Eurocentric perspectives and practices that dominate research in reading instruction. Several familiar national panels, commissions, and committees have determined that the only proven way to teach early literacy is by using a Eurocentric code-based phonetic approach. The corollary to this conclusion is that those children not learning to read using this approach have either a learning disability or deficit and deprivation in the home or community. Consequently, African American children are disproportionately identified as learning disabled, placed in special education, and denied opportunities for developing full literacy. This fits the definition of systemic racism.

    I am proposing that we [in the field of literacy education] begin a serious discussion of systemic racism in literacy practices and research and that we take responsibility for our contribution to systemic racism in the society.

    We invite you to share your thoughts via email or social media by tagging our Twitter handle, messaging us on Facebook, or posting to our Linked In group.
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    ILA Appreciates Teachers

    By Wesley Ford
     | May 07, 2020

    Student making heart shapeI’ve worked at the International Literacy Association (ILA) for many a year now, and during that time, I’ve worked with educators of all ilk, from researchers to principals, librarians to preservice teachers. I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of educators across various ILA events and annual conferences. Amazing and dedicated professionals who want nothing but the best for learners all of ages. The ingenuity and tenacity of educators never ceases to amaze me, and nothing has brought that to the forefront more than the previous months as schools and teaching programs were forced to shift—at an unreasonable speed no less—to a new format.

    As strange and trying as these times are, I have nothing but confidence in the future of schools and education because I know from firsthand experience that educators rise to any challenge and do what’s right for students.

    From my colleagues

    This being Teacher Appreciation Week, we at ILA thought it an appropriate time to express our appreciation for all of you, and so here are few shout-outs and well wishes I collected from my colleagues.

    “A special education teacher doing her absolute best”

    “Big shout-out to my sister—a special education teacher doing her absolute best to help her students remotely while assisting her older daughter with her remote schooling, AND chasing a 4-year-old around!”

    —Daralene Irwin, Front-end Web Developer + Content Manager 

    “This teacher is a real inspiration”

    “I have nothing but respect and blessings for the third-grade teacher my grandson is lucky to have.  Mr. Paul Sedacca from McVey Elementary School here in Newark, DE, has gone above and beyond.  He is doing 5-days-a-week online learning for 18 third graders for two hours.  This week, he is starting small-group learning for 3–4 students at a time, each day, right before regular online classes start.  He has even asked the parents if they feel their child needs a one-on-one at any time.  My grandson has real potential for doing good work and his teacher encourages him to excel even more.  This teacher is a real inspiration, and the school and students are very fortunate to have such a dedicated teacher.”

    —Peggy DiMaio, Registration & Housing Manager 

    (To which I will add: ILA has a close professional relationship with McVey Elementary through the McVey/Delaware project, and I have been to visit the school a few times over the years [a friend of mine from high school works there!] and all the teachers are just amazing. As is David Wilkie, McVey’s principal, who was recognized with the Corwin Literacy Leader award in 2017 for his work in building a culture of literacy in his school.. So there’s my shout-out to everyone over at McVey; I hope you are all doing well! Now back to everyone else.)

    “Helps them get the wiggles out by dancing together”

     “I would be happy to give a shout-out to [my son] Landon’s teacher, Mrs. Debbie Ortiz, at Christ the Teacher Catholic School in Newark, DE. Although remote learning has taken quite a lot of getting used to for many parents, I am so thankful for the video lessons, personalized student shout-outs, requests for pictures, and read-aloud videos that are keeping Landon and the other first graders engaged during these challenging times. Mrs. Ortiz has the class gather each Thursday and pray as a class and share experiences from their week, and helps them to get the wiggles out by dancing together. She is even taking them on a virtual field trip to Washington, DC, this Friday.

    Even though this time is very stressful for parents, it is also taking a toll on the students. Landon is looking forward to rejoining his classmates for a new school year (hopefully in September).”

    Angela Rivell, Program Manager

    “Urged and prodded me to write”

    “Let me tell you about my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Tomlinson, who urged and prodded me to write. He took an assignment I did for him and submitted it to Reader’s Digest without my knowing. The piece won second place in a national competition and I was forever convinced that maybe, just maybe, I could write. “ —Marcie Craig Post, Executive Director 

    “Always checking in…and cheering him from afar”

    “My 4-year-old son has been at an early childhood center since he was 12 weeks old. As a working mother, I am very conscious of the fact that, Monday through Friday, he spends more waking hours at his school than he does at home with his dad and me. We are enormously grateful for the teachers he’s been lucky enough to have. Teachers who really know him and know how to bring out the best in him. Teachers who nurture his interests, no matter how quirky—the joy on my child’s face when Ms. Erica gave him a bucket full of keys and let him try them in every lock in the classroom!—and who nurture his social-emotional development. Teachers who encourage his love of reading and art and science. It’s been almost two months since his school closed due to our state’s stay-at-home order, but Ms. Kelly is always checking in, sending links to activities she knows he’ll enjoy, and cheering him from afar. It’s a sad fact that, in this country, early childhood educators are undervalued. But to us, they are family, and we love and miss them every single day.” —Lara Deloza, Director of Brand Content and Communications

    My own story

    And now it’s my turn, I suppose. I’ve had so many great teachers during the years, but one forever stands out in my memory. I was in small grade school, and we had two reading groups: the normal group and the advanced group. I was the only student in both groups. I could understand the concepts of the stories if they were read to me, but I struggled with reading. Word sounds didn’t come naturally to me, and I still have issues reading aloud text. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Dapkis, recognized my issues and worked with my parents to get me additional tutoring outside of school.

    Without that extra help, I undoubtedly would have fallen further behind in school (so also a big thank you to my parents). I went from barely being able to read Snoopy comics to devouring chapter books within a couple years. And from there, the reader, writer, and editor working at ILA.

    To all the teachers out there, words cannot express the positive effect you have on your students. Thank you. A million times, thank you!

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    Update From Zambia

    By Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman
     | Mar 31, 2020

    We received this letter from Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman, the chair of ChildFund Zambia and the Literacy Association of Zambia, in which she details the efforts made by her organizations and the government of Zambia in promoting literacy education in the midst of managing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We were inspired by these efforts and wanted to share them with our community.

    Greetings. I wish to give you an update on COVID-19 in Zambia.

    The Zambian government confirmed the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country on March 18, 2020, with two cases. The number increased to three on March 22 and escalated to 12 as of March 25. Eleven of the 12 cases concern returning Zambians who had traveled to affected countries while one person was infected in-country.

    Additionally, the Zambian government declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 17. Thereafter, all schools, colleges, and universities were closed as of March 20 until further notice.

    The government also limited the hours of church services to one with smaller groups of congregants. All bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms, and casinos have been closed. The government has also banned large gatherings such as workshops, weddings, and funerals or any event that may pull a crowd above 50 people. Restaurants are operating on take-away and delivery basis.

    As the number of cases increased to 12, the president also announced other measures of preventing the spread of the disease, which included the closure of the three international airports for 14 days.

    The Literacy Association of Zambia is working with ChildFund International and other partners in sensitizing children and their families and caregivers on the preventative measures announced by the government regarding COVID-19. These messages on prevention and hygienic practices were developed by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and have been translated into six local languages.

    The government is also using between 119 and 148 radio stations in the country and other media institutions to disseminate information on COVID-19 info. ChildFund, which is currently housing the Literacy Association of Zambia, is financially supporting the printing of materials and dissemination of information to ensure that it reaches every enrolled household.

    This is being done in conjunction with the Zambia News and Information Services, a government media institution and the district Health Management teams. Messages are being transmitted in the local languages using a public address system regarding the prevention, symptoms, response, and numbers to call in case one presents with the symptoms of COVID-19.

    In terms of literacy, it will be a challenge, especially for the children and teachers in rural areas where they have limited connectivity. In most cases, the children in rural areas come from economically challenged households and may not have any access to digital devices.

    For the children who have access to devices and the families and caregivers who may have computers and laptops, we are trying to share as many materials and resources as possible: We have received electronic resources from the IDC chair, the International Literacy Association, and the education department at our ChildFund. Positive feedback has come from families who are appreciating the initiative.  

    The Ministry of General Education also gave a directive to all schools to give enough work to the learners during this period of closure. Schools were given four days to do so before they were officially closed. 

    There is also a discussion for the Ministry of General Education, through the Department of Open and Distance Education, to work on supporting the children to continue learning during this COVID-19 closedown of schools. They are working on two systems to support the learners: primary schools (grades 1–7) will be supported through educational radio programs, and secondary schools will be supported through the National E-Learning portal, which is being launched as soon as everything is in place.

    Through this strategy, the Ministry of General Education will partner with a national mobile and internet service provider with the hope that, once it is done, learners will be able to access online educational materials and communicate with their teachers. Once this is concluded, the Literacy Association of Zambia will procure radios for the children who are in our areas of operation and where the Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools training were conducted.

    We are looking forward to learning more about how we can help the learners during this period as we are not sure about how long schools will remain closed. 

    We would like to thank Edith for this update and to invite any members, chapters, or international affiliates to send us updates about the efforts being made by educators, schools, districts, or even larger government bodies.

    Stay connected. Share your successes. We’re all in this together.

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