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  • guatemalaJill Lewis-Spector tells the stories of IRA volunteers from the U.S. working in Guatemalan schools in conjunction with the Consejo de Lectura.
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    IRA Helps Guatemalan Teachers Succeed

    by Jill Lewis-Spector with Marcie Mondschien
     | Jul 22, 2013

    As the children of the Santa Barbara school in Guatemala waved goodbye to us, I reflected on how shocked I felt when visiting their building. The structure had actually been built by parents and it was just about devoid of resources. But the impression of impoverishment was quickly dispelled. The school was full of exuberant teachers and students, and the youngsters’ literacy accomplishments were strung on clotheslines around their tiny classrooms.

    Guatemalan students

    Guatemalan students

    Zully Soberanis and Ken Goodman (photo by Andi Sosin)
    Zully Soberanis and Ken Goodman
    (photo by Andi Sosin)

    Jerry and Marcie Mondschein 
    Jerry and Marcie Mondschein

    IRA volunteers from the U. S. have been working in Guatemalan schools for some time. In conjunction with our affiliate, the Consejo de Lectura, the Guatemalan Reading Association (GRA), they mentor and train teachers to initiate new literacy practices in their classrooms.

    This February I was invited to speak at the GRA conference, where I brought greetings from IRA, and was able to witness for myself this extraordinary partnership.

    A Principal’s Journey

    Zully Patricia Soberanis Montes, principal at the Santa Barbara school, was trained as a teacher at the Instituto Normal Mixto Rafael Aqueche. However, the preparation she received there was not fully suited to the reality she experienced in Guatemalan classrooms. This limitation was eventually overcome by a fortunate encounter.

    “I found out about the Reading Council (Consejo de Lectura) in 1995, when I was invited to attend a meeting,” Zully explains. “I was a traditional teacher; I taught what I had learned in school, using the same old methods. When my colleagues shared their classroom successes, and when I went to a workshop taught by international volunteers who taught me a new way to teach, I felt liberated. I was set free from my previous ideas that had kept me tied to mediocrity. I decided to change.”

    IRA Past President Ken Goodman and his wife Yetta contribute time and energy to the Santa Barbara school project. Ken remembers that when Zully arrived at her school in 1988, “she found a single room made of corrugated steel.” Yet, in 2013, this facility—the Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Santa Barbara—was honored by the Ministry of Education for its high quality instruction. Zully is proud of her accomplishments:

    We were congratulated for the high level of reading achievement of our students (82%), and mathematics (76%). We are the first school in zones 17, 18, 24 and 25 to receive this recognition. In our school the children are thinking, analyzing, looking at information critically, evaluating, expressing themselves, and making decisions. That makes me happy.

    We are helping students become more than machines copying lessons from books. Through stories, we are able to transmit knowledge, develop thinking skills, discover new topics, and much more. We are forming leaders, positive individuals who will take Guatemala to new heights.

    The Reading Council brought a special gift to my life. I have become more committed to changing education, not only in my school or my area, but in the entire country.

    Enter the Mondscheins

    Zully is very conscious of the fact that outside assistance was a huge driver of this success story. Indeed, she describes Marcia and Gerald Mondschein both as the “parents” of the Guatemalan Reading Council, and as “visionaries who came to help us improve our educational system.” Who are the Mondscheins? The story picks up in 1989 when volunteer educators from Long Island, New York’s Nassau Reading Council began its work with volunteer Guatemalan educators to improve literacy in Guatemala.

    Marcie Mondschein and her physician husband, Jerry, had traveled to Guatemala for a medical project that didn’t transpire. While there, they embarked on a life-changing adventure with a few Guatemalan teachers. The teachers were on strike, and Marcie simply began presenting impromptu workshops for them. Marcie and Jerry returned seven months later to exchange ideas and begin planning for the future. These visits, now biannual, have become the Nassau Reading Council’s International Literacy Project with Guatemala.

    Scores of colleagues have since joined Marcie. More than one thousand Guatemalan public school teachers now attend the biannual conference and yearly workshops. Presenters have come from Central and South America, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, and 18 states in the U.S.

    Today, six satellite councils of the Guatemala Reading Association hold monthly workshops for hundreds of teachers. When GRA held its first International Literacy Conference, more than 1,500 teachers attended. Marcie says that attendees were amazed that they had a choice of presentations to attend. This year Yetta Goodman was the Keynote Speaker. The teachers were honored that she would come to Guatemala to share her expertise with them.

    In 1999 Guatemala was chosen as the site for the Latin American Regional Conference of the IRA. Since 1991, three or four Guatemalan public school teachers are regularly awarded scholarships from state councils to visit schools in New York and to attend local workshops. Through donations from several IRA state councils and the sale of Guatemalan crafts at the IRA Annual Convention and regional conferences, more than 500 mini-libraries of new high quality books in Spanish have been donated to the country’s schools.


    The Guatemala Literacy Project was formally recognized by IRA in 1996 when Marcie received the Constance McCullough Award for the most exemplary literacy project in a developing country. As Marcie notes,

    We have witnessed positive change from this project. Many Guatemalan educators who have participated in this collaborative partnership have returned to higher education and have attained degrees. Some have become teacher trainers throughout Latin America, and several have published professional books for Guatemala’s teachers.

    There has been significant change in the educational philosophy of Guatemala and a renewed teacher enthusiasm for education. We have seen classrooms where cooperative and collaborative learning occurs and children are now actively involved in learning. We have seen teachers who have renewed enthusiasm for their chosen profession.

    She is quite clear on the key ingredients that have driven this accomplishment. To begin with, the decision-making process has always been done by the Guatemalans, not the Americans. GRA members decide workshop content and details, scholarship recipients, and which schools receive the mini-libraries. Decisions are based on teachers’ attendance at GRA/local meetings and their willingness to share expertise by organizing and/or by giving workshops themselves.

    Moreover, the project has carefully maintained its independence from outside funding sources. The teachers who began the Guatemalan Literacy Project decided not to seek funding or grants. They wanted this project to sustain itself.

    Teachers Looking Back

    And what has the teachers’ experience been? One alumna of the program is Roselia Reyes Caballeros, a founder and member of the Reading Council of Guatemala. Roselia has now co-authored numerous education and language textbooks and has trained over 30,000 teachers nationwide. She observes, “The Reading Council has given me self-confidence and increased my self-esteem. Education has become more equitable. I am more proactive in my teaching.”

    Another alumna, Luz María Ortíz García, teaches in San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, a very conservative community that, according to Luz, typically practiced the traditional methods of learning. Luz explains that the biggest effect the Guatemala Reading Council has had on her, is her discovery of “how all learning is social, and given in a group, and so we learn in Council workshops, sharing experiences applied in classrooms that have success.” She continues:

    It is wonderful to see that we share the same passion for reading teachers in different areas, with different styles. I find that the main ingredient in a successful experience is the teacher, who is a guide, a mediator, with powerful questions who can achieve the best out of students, without seeking a standard thought, but valuing and celebrating contributions from each. I thank the IRA for spreading this philosophy, which helps us, intentionally plan all our activities to build critical thinking.

    Contagious Enthusiasm

    Reflecting back on my visit, it is quite clear to me that the activity of the Guatemala Reading Association, and the work of Marcie Mondschein and other volunteers, is quite simply contagious. A literacy fever has taken hold in the country, and more and more teachers are joining ranks in the cause of higher literacy for all Guatemalans. Those educators who are fortunate enough to experience this professional development firsthand will feel its effects for years to come.

    Jill Lewis-SpectorJill Lewis-Spector is the vice president of the International Reading Association and a professor at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, NJ, jlewis-spector@/.

    This article was originally published with additional sidebars in the April/May 2013 issue of Reading Today. IRA members can read the interactive digital version of the magazine here. Nonmembers: join today!

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  • michelle nelson-schmidtRCSNJ teamed up with author Michelle Nelson-Schmidt and Usborne Books and More to assist New Jersey shore schools after Hurricane Sandy.
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    Reading Council of Southern New Jersey Helps Get Books to Hurricane-Devastated Schools

     | Jul 18, 2013

    by Jane Arochas

    After Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey towns in late October, the Reading Council of Southern New Jersey (RCSNJ) teamed up with Usborne Books and More to assist in rebuilding shore schools throughout the state. Mary Beth Spitz, Educational Consultant for Usborne, contacted RCSNJ with an idea that spiraled into contributions and donations from all over the world to help rebuild and reequip the shore’s schools. The ensuing project, entitled “Restore Our Shore Schools through LITERACY,” has produced over $75,000 to date in free book donations from fundraising events.

    Publisher and Children’s Book Author Step In

    michelle nelson-schmidt
    Author Michelle

    Former “Jersey girl” and successful children’s author Michelle Nelson-Schmidt felt compelled to give back to the community. Local schools hosted Schmidt for a week of author visit/book signings throughout New Jersey free of charge. Her book entitled Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster has a message for everyone with worries and doubts. Schmidt was the perfect spokesperson to inspire schools throughout the state. Her positive message taught young and old that anyone can “follow their dreams and persevere.”

    Author Michelle Nelson-Schmidt speaks to students

    Community Night

    The collaboration of RCSNJ and Usborne Books generated book sales which were matched with 100% free books to distribute to area shore towns affected by Hurricane Sandy. A related week of literacy events culminated on February 1, 2013 with a “Community Night” at Rowan University. The session was a gathering of shore school representatives who will be recipients of the Free Books Grant matched 100% by Usborne Books & More. It was an evening to thank local businesses, schools, and volunteers who made this outreach such a huge success.

    RCSNJ was instrumental in networking with the local schools and businesses. Our websites, and enabled communication of events, applications, and donations for distributions to the shore schools. Through the social media of Facebook and other websites, RCSNJ played an integral part in an outpouring of support which occurred from the project. Applications were submitted through RCSNJ and the council anticipates assisting several schools damaged by Sandy.

    Numerous organizations contacted RCSNJ to donate books. A retired teacher in North Jersey gathered “1,000 books for Sandy.” An American military school in Germany inquired as to how to send books to shore schools. From Cub Scouts and Lion Cubs in Pennsylvania to schools in Texas and Indiana, there has been an enormous response to help those in need.

    Mrs. Spoerl and Alicia Harrison donated 1,000 books 

    The Task Continues

    Our task is not over yet. We now have to distribute the many thousands of books to area shore schools who have applied for assistance. We look forward to assisting libraries and schools with Usborne Books & More. Providing books to the schools affected by Hurricane Sandy will ensure that future minds have the resources they need to better themselves.

    Michelle Nelson-Schmidt, Jane Arochas, and Mary Beth Spitz

    Jane Arochas is the president of RCSNJ (Reading Council of Southern New Jersey), or

    This article is an addendum to an article from the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Reading Today. IRA members can read the interactive digital version of the magazine here. Nonmembers: join today!

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  • council awards ceremonyWe celebrated IRA state/provincial and local councils with these awards at the IRA 58th Annual Convention in April 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.
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    2013 International Reading Association Council Awards

     | Jul 11, 2013

    council awards ceremonyAt the International Reading Association, the activities of our state/provincial and local councils are integral to our mission of literacy outreach and professional development for educators. We celebrated them with these awards at the IRA 58th Annual Convention in April 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.

    Exemplary Reading Program Award Winners
    The following schools were given these awards through their state councils.

    East Elementary School, Cullman, AL
    Willis D. Shaw Elementary School, Springdale, AR
    Blackwater Community School, Coolidge, AZ
    Loomis Grammar School, Loomis, CA
    Grove Avenue Elementary School, Barrington, IL
    Tonganoxie Elementary School, Tonganoxie, KS
    Arabi Elementary School, Arabi, LA
    Reidsville Middle School, Reidsville, NC
    Englewood Elementary School, Salem, OR
    Loomis Elementary School, Broomall, PA
    Campobello-Gramling Elementary School, Campobello, SC
    Pi Beta Phi Elementary School, Gatlinburg, TN
    Stewart Elementary School, Huntsville, TX
    Belview Elementary, Radford, VA
    School District of Fort Atkinson Elementary Schools, Fort Atkinson, WI
    Blackwater Community School, Coolidge, AZ


    Membership Achievement Awards


    Alaska State Literacy Association
    Alberta Provincial Council
    Connecticut Reading Association
    Illinois Reading Council
    Texas Association for Literacy Education (TALE)
    Utah Council
    Wisconsin State Reading Association


    North Dakota Reading Association
    West Virginia Reading Association


    Indiana State Reading Association
    Minnesota Reading Association
    New York State Reading Association


    Student Membership Achievement Awards


    Alabama Reading Association
    Arkansas Reading Association
    Diamond State Reading Association
    Georgia Reading Association
    Idaho Council
    Kansas Reading Association
    Louisiana Reading Association
    Maine Reading Association
    North Carolina Reading Association
    North Dakota Reading Association
    Saskatchewan Reading Council
    Vermont Council on Reading


    Indiana State Reading Association


    Local Council Community Service Award

    Cody Reading Council (Cody, WY)
    Rindi Plambeck and Rebecca Davis, Co-Presidents


    Advocacy Awards

    Connecticut Reading Association
    Cathy Mastrianna, President

    Illinois Reading Council
    Pat Braun, President

    Louisiana Reading Association
    Dorothy Young, President

    Michigan Reading Association
    Grace Velchansky, President

    Oklahoma Reading Association
    Lori Pendelton, President

    Virginia State Reading Association
    Valerie Robnolt, President


    Awards of Excellence

    Alabama Reading Association
    Nancy Nix, President

    Arizona Reading Association
    Ollie Archambault, President

    Arkansas Reading Association
    Deborah Hardwick-Smith, President

    British Columbia Literacy Council
    Patricia Weaver, President

    California Reading Association
    Lynn Gurnee, President

    Colorado Council
    Hollyanna Bates, President

    Diamond State Reading Association
    Maureen Keeney, President

    Florida Reading Association
    Evan Lefsky, President

    Georgia Reading Association
    Lynn Minor, President

    Illinois Reading Council
    Patricia Braun, President

    Indiana State Reading Association
    Chris Judson, President

    Iowa Reading Association
    Anthony Pieper, President

    Kansas Reading Association
    Donita Shaw, President

    Kentucky Reading Association
    Diana Porter, President

    Louisiana Reading Association
    Dorothy Young, President

    Manitoba Reading Association
    Louise Duncan, President

    State of Maryland IRA Council (SoMIRAC)
    Marilyn Barber, President

    Massachusetts Reading Association
    Sherry Sausville, President

    Michigan Reading Association
    Grace Velchansky, President

    Missouri State Council
    Terry Sherer, President

    Montana State Reading Council
    Karen Hickey, President Elect

    Nebraska State Reading Association
    Cynthia Mangers Johnson, President

    New Mexico State Council
    Kristy Hays, President

    New York State Reading Association
    Peter McDermott, President

    North Carolina Reading Association
    Sandra Cook, President

    North Dakota Reading Association
    Gloria Jones, President

    Oregon Reading Association
    Carol Folk, President

    Keystone State Reading Association
    Susan Menser, President

    Saskatchewan Reading Council
    Gisele Carlson, President

    South Carolina State Council
    Callie Herlong, President

    Tennessee Reading Association
    Kathy McCollum Brashears, President

    Virginia State Reading Association
    Valerie Robnolt, President

    Washington Organization for Reading Development (WORD)
    Dawn Christiana, President

    West Virginia Reading Association
    Jone Hersch, President

    Wisconsin State Reading Association
    Janice Weinhold, President


    Honor Councils

    Year 1 Honor Council

    Gila County Reading Council, AZ
    Lynette Dyas, President

    Nicholas County Reading Council, WV
    Tony Nichols, President 

    Year 2 Honor Councils

    Connecticut Northwest Council, CT
    Sandra Potts, President

    Pennyrile Council, KY
    Janet Walker, President

    Year 3 Honor Councils

    City of Seattle Council, WA
    Denise Gudwin, President

    IRA Student Literacy Council of the University of Delaware, DE
    Cosimo Faella, President

    Manitoba Council of Reading, Clinicians, MB
    Monica Wiebe, President

    Murray, Kentucky Area Council, KY
    Chhanda Islam, President

    Northern Illinois Reading Council, IL
    Elizabeth Hoelting, President

    Prairie Area Reading Council, IL
    Ellen Kacic, President

    West Suburban Reading Council, IL
    Marlene Panebianco, President

    Year 4 Honor Councils

    Arkansas River Valley Reading Council, AR
    Sandra Mitchell, President

    East Central Indiana Council, IN
    Chyenne Wilder, President

    Edgefield Reading Council, SC
    Ginger Wates, President

    Illinois Title I Association, IL
    Marilyn Cordes, President

    Pinnacle Special Interest Reading Council, AR
    Francie Ross, President

    Year 5 Honor Councils

    Blue Grass Area Council, KY
    Lisa King, President

    Crystal Coast Reading Council, NC
    Dawn Simpson, President

    Yavapai Reading Council, AZ
    Joan Masaryk, President

    Year 6 Honor Councils

    Heritage Reading Council, AL
    Lori Ann Gibson, President

    Jacksonville Reading Council, AL
    Lesley Bean, President

    University of Mobile Reading Council, AL
    Candace Early, President

    Year 7 Honor Councils

    Elmore County Reading Council, AL
    Glenda Vanermen, President

    Lake Cumberland Area Reading Council, KY
    Christina Warinner, President

    Sunset Reading Council, OR
    Judy Fisher, President

    Year 8 Honor Councils

    Benton County Reading Council, TN
    Karen Terry, President

    Driftwood Reading Council, OR
    Melia Jasso, President

    Greater Louisville Council, KY
    Synthia Shelby, President

    Onslow-Lejeune Council, NC
    Tracy McIntyre, President

    Umpqua Reading Council, OR
    Katrina Scott, President

    Year 9 Honor Councils

    Autauga Reading Council, AL
    Faye Moore, President

    Berkshire Reading Council, MA
    Catherine Salvini, President

    Connecticut Association for Reading Research, CT
    Judy Stone Moeller, President

    Northeast Louisiana Reading Association, LA
    Dewanna Eady, President

    Niagara Frontier Reading Council, NY
    Patricia Oliphant, President

    Two Rivers Council, IL
    Julie Steinke, President

    Year 10 Honor Councils

    Bay County Reading Association, FL
    Kathleen Fontaine, President

    Delaware County Council
    Annemarie Jay, President

    Eastern Connecticut Reading Council, CT
    Joanne Bell, President

    Three Sisters Reading Council, OR
    Mary Hawes, President

    Upper Shore Reading Council, MD
    Robin Plummer, President

    Vineyard Valleys Reading Council, OR
    Melinda Larson, President

    Year 11 Honor Councils

    Kent Council, MI
    Martha Vermeulen, President

    Northeast Montana Council, MT
    Jane Kolstad, President

    Sussex County Organization for Reading Excellence, DE
    Lisa Burnham, President

    Year 12 Honor Councils

    Laurens County Reading Council, SC
    Vicky Culbertson, President

    Robeson Council, NC
    Anthony Spallino, President

    Tennessee Valley Reading Council, AL
    Sharon Walker, President

    Year 13 Honor Councils

    Cherokee Reading Council, SC
    Tina Morris, President

    Kewetin Nene Council, SK
    Debby Noble, President

    Marshall County Reading Council, WV
    Jennifer Lipinski, President

    Northeast Arkansas Council, AR
    Viola Snow, President

    Year 14 Honor Councils

    Arkadelphia Area Reading Council, AR
    Kaila Murphy, President

    Baldwin County Reading Council, AL
    Linda Noble, President

    Emerald Empire Council, OR
    Karren Timmermans, President

    Hamilton County Reading Council, IN
    Amy Catania, President

    Jesse Stewart Council, KY
    Marcia Ellis, President

    Massachusetts Association of College and University Reading Educators, MA
    Jacy Ippolito, President

    Mid-State Reading Council, IL
    Janel Bolender, President

    Newberry County Reading Council, SC
    Pamela Cromer, President

    Webster County Highlander Reading Council, WV
    Aleda Hileman, President

    Year 15 Honor Councils

    Eastern Iowa Reading Council, IA
    Julie Ortner, President

    Greater Hartford Area Council, CT
    Laura Caruso, President

    Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council, AZ
    Julie Berlin, President

    Saluda Reading Council, SC
    Meredith Miller-Rikard, President

    South East Reading Council, SK
    Joan Bue, President

    Year 16 Honor Councils

    Central Montana Reading Council, MT
    Connie Metcalfe, President

    East Central - EIU Reading Council, IL
    Ingrid Minger, President

    Flint Hills Council, KS
    Roger Caswell, President

    Washington Parish Reading Council, LA
    Rita Mulina, President

    Year 17 Honor Councils

    Guam Council, GU
    Jonathan Pilarca, President

    Headwaters Reading Council, WI
    Colleen Konicek, President

    Mid-Shore Reading Council, MD
    Elizabeth Coxon, President

    Monmouth County Reading Council, NJ
    Joyce Noren, President

    Reading Council of Northern Delaware, DE
    Cecilia McCormick, President

    San Joaquin County Reading Association, CA
    Anne Weisenberg, President

    South Arkansas Reading Council, AR
    Dana Kelly, President

    Spartanburg County Council, SC
    Amanda Cox, President

    Year 18 Honor Councils

    Cape Cod Council, MA
    MaryEllen Caesar, President

    Central Minnesota Reading Council, MN
    Beth Laudenbauch, President

    Fort Collins Council, CO
    Laura Whale, President

    Fox Valley Reading Council, WI
    Teri Rucinsky, President

    Piedmont Area Reading Council, VA
    Joyce Spencer, President

    Year 19 Honor Councils

    Cook Inlet Council, AK
    Elizabeth Zeuli, President

    Gateway Reading Council, CA
    Paula Aja, President

    Jefferson County Council, AR
    Kathy Carnahan, President

    North Louisiana Reading Council, LA
    Loretta Jaggers, President

    Placer Area Reading Council, CA
    Jenn Tverberg, President

    Suburban Council, IL
    Laura Polkoff, President

    Year 20 Honor Councils

    Chicago Area Reading Association, IL
    Margaret Richek, President

    Kent Council, DE
    Kimberly Cole, President

    Mason County Council, WV
    Lei Sergent, President

    Northwest Arkansas Council, AR
    Donna Owen, President

    Reading Council of Southern New Jersey, NJ
    Jane Arochas, President

    Southern Maryland Reading Council, MD
    Linda Forrest, President

    Year 21 Honor Councils

    Central Arizona Reading Council, AZ
    Carolee Sopicki, President

    Chester County Reading Association, PA
    Glendia Kennedy, President

    Eisenhower Area Reading Council, KS
    Janelle Riedy, President

    Grant County Reading Council, AR
    Tara Derby, President

    Kanawha Council of International Reading Association, WV
    Barbara Jones, President

    New River Valley Reading Council, VA
    Peggy Kincaid, President

    Piedmont Reading Council, SC
    Denise Schweikart, President

    SEARK Reading Council, AR
    Julie Workman, President

    Three Rivers Reading Council, AR
    Michele Newnum, President

    Twin Rivers Council, NC
    Janet Zinni, President

    Year 22 Honor Councils

    Berkeley Reading Council, SC
    Cathy Delaney, President

    East San Gabriel Valley, CA
    Melissa Lowry, President

    Madison Area Reading Council, WI
    Janet Farnan, President

    Mid-Hudson Council, NY
    Mary Ann Zuccaro, President

    Tri-County Reading Council, PA
    Penny Naugle, President

    Year 23 Honor Councils

    Cecil Council, MD
    Jessica Kubek, President

    Lake Washington Council, WA
    Cim Dew, President

    Rainbow Reading Council, AL
    Felicia Chambers, President

    Raleigh-Wake Council, NC
    Anita Stack, President

    Rogue Valley Council, OR
    Tonya Noon-Toledo, President

    Smoky Mountain Reading Council, TN
    Tammy Madon, President

    Year 24 Honor Councils

    Carroll Reading Council, MD
    Joanne Dicke, President

    Eastern Shore Reading Council, MD
    Michelle Shreeves, President

    Frederick County Reading Council, MD
    Kathleen Reifschneider, President

    Lancaster-Lebanon Reading Council, PA
    Carol Severance, President

    North Central Reading Association, ND
    Amy Engelhard, President

    Shenandoah Valley Reading Council, VA
    Sandra Proctor, President

    Southeast Regional Reading Council, MA
    Janice Standring, President

    Year 25 Honor Councils

    Duval County Reading Council, FL
    Sandra Pruitt, President

    Moore County Council, NC
    Misty Clark, President

    Nassau Reading Council, NY
    Kathleen Conway-Gervais, President

    Pikes Peak Council, CO
    Claudia Miller, President

    Roanoke Valley Council, VA
    Charles Richards, President

    Weld County Reading Council, CO
    Michele Warner, President

    Year 26 Honor Councils

    Colonial Association of Reading Educators Council, PA
    Kathleen Sagl, President

    Metro-Mobile Reading Council, AL
    Pamela McDade, President

    Phyllis Allen Smith
    North Shore Council, MA
    Holly Banusiewicz, President

    Western Kentucky Council, KY
    Sara Jennings, President

    Year 27 Honor Councils

    Anne Arundel Reading Council, MD
    Beth Burke, President

    Central Wisconsin Reading Council, WI
    Amber Garbe, President

    Gary Reading Council, IN
    Lolita Good-Lewis, President

    Midland Empire Reading Council, MT
    Janelle Wilson, President

    Portland Council of IRA, OR
    Barbara Kutasz, President

    Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg, MB
    Cindy Thiessen, President

    Wood County Reading Council, WV
    Lois Meadows, President

    Year 28 Honor Councils

    Capital Reading Council, OR
    Kathleen Moran, President

    Central Arkansas Council, AR
    Daisy Hunt, President

    Chesapeake Reading Council, VA
    Heather Bailey, President

    Euclid Council, OH
    Hannah Szabo, President

    Evansville Area Reading Council, IN
    Holly Titus, President

    Geary County Council, KS
    Rolinda Smith, President

    Howard County Council, MD
    Maria Moy, President

    Jefferson County Council, CO
    Dana Plewka, President

    Phoenix West Council, AZ
    Melissa Selby, President

    Tennessee Tech Council, TN
    Michele Campbell, President

    Year 29 Honor Councils

    Alameda County Reading Association, CA
    Jeannette Alday, President

    Brooklyn Reading Council, NY
    Milton Mayers, President

    Cabell County Council, WV
    Tina Cooper, President

    Columbia Area Reading Council, SC
    Evette Bradley, President

    Contra Costa Reading Association, CA
    Tanya Leyden, President

    Hardy Reading Council, IA
    Karla Bronzynski, President

    Harrison County Reading Council, WV
    Chrisanne Diaz, President

    Lee’s Summit Reading Council, MO
    Julie Caldwell, President

    Marion County Reading Council, WV
    Twyla Rote, President

    Mid-Valley Council, OR
    Cheryl Graham, President

    Nobscot Council, MA
    Marlene Correia, President

    North Central Arkansas Reading Council, AR
    Jeanne Harvey, President

    North Central Council, TN
    Mary Truka, President

    Palmetto Council, SC
    Brenda Capps, President

    St. Louis Suburban Council, MO
    Thomas Cornell, President

    Tulsa County Reading Council, OK
    Tulagina Smith, President

    Wayne County Reading Council, MI
    Hakim Shahid, President

    Year 30 Honor Councils

    Arrowhead Reading Council, MN
    Pamela Tomassoni, President

    Central New York Council, NY
    Kathryn Lester, President

    Delaware Valley Reading Association, PA
    Ann Finore, President

    Metropolitan Reading Council, NE
    Janet Larson, President

    Sacramento Area Reading Association, CA
    Meg Gillman, President

    Springfi eld Council, MO
    Sarah Logan, President

    Tucson Area Council, AZ
    Kathryn Bell, President

    West Jersey Reading Council, NJ
    Susan Yoder, President

    Year 31 Honor Councils

    Central Nebraska Reading Council, NE
    Rebecca Bartlett, President

    Erie Reading Council, PA
    Anna Landers, President
    Greater Boston Council, MA
    Jean Helstrom, President

    Greater San Diego Reading Association, CA
    Maureen Begley, President

    Greater Washington Reading Council, VA
    Kathryn Miller, President

    Harford County Reading Council, MD
    Lisa Komondor, President

    Newport News Reading Council, VA
    Sherry Edbauer, President

    Orange County Reading Association, CA
    Megan Sommers

    Richmond Area Reading Council, VA
    Debi Buck, President

    Santa Clara County Reading Council, CA
    Kari Ito, President

    Virginia Beach Reading Council, VA
    Jennifer Haws, President


    Read more about these and other awards on the International Reading Association awards and grants webpage. Learn more about councils or find your local council on the IRA councils page.


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  • At the IRA 58th Annual Convention in April 2013 in San Antonio, Texas, we recognized members and affiliates from around the world.
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    2013 International Awards and Grants

     | Jul 11, 2013

    At the IRA 58th Annual Convention in April 2013 in San Antonio, Texas, we gathered to celebrate our members from around the world. The following members and international affiliates were recognized for their service to the field of literacy. 

    Constance McCullough Award

    Carla Jean Raynor, A Growing and Developing Society— Intergenerational Learning with Families at the Core Bhutan

    Global Volunteer Award

    Dr. Anne Sustik, Illinois Reading Association

    Dr. Janet Condy, Reading Association of South Africa

    International Membership Development Awards

    Perhimpunan Baca-Tulis Masyarakat (PBTM), Indonesia

    Sindh-Balochistan Reading Council, Pakistan

    Literacy Projects in Countries with Developing Economies

    Beatrice Tafon Takeh, Children’s Book Club, Cameroon

    Dr. Apolonia Tamata, Evaluating the Information Text Awareness Project (ITAP) and Documenting Localized Teaching Practices in Fiji, Fiji

    Majidova Robiya Abduvalievna, Reading Club for Young Learners in Kairakkum, Tajikistan

    Dr. Pinheiro Angela Maria Veira, The Professionalization of Literacy Teachers in Brazil, Brazil

    Hadi Tabassum Samina, Teach for India, India

    Margaret Muthiga, Reading to Rebuild and Nourish, Argentina

    Melina Porto, Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Spanish Speaking Argentina, Argentina

    Geraldine Nanjala, Library Program in Ndege Primary Schools, Kenya

    United Kingdom Association Literacy Awards

    UKLA Book Award - Awarded every year. The only national book award judged by teachers, and shadowed by student teachers. Chair - Lynda Graham

    Iris & Isaac by Catherine Rayner
    3-6 years category
    Published by Little Tiger Press

    Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis
    7-11 years category
    Published by Oxford University Press

    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
    12- 16 years category,
    Illustrated by Jim Kay, published by Walker Books

    UKLA/Wiley-Blackwell Research in Literacy Education Awards - Awarded every year.
    Shortlists drawn up by panel convened by editors of JRR (Clare Wood) and Literacy (Cathy Burnett and Julia Davies). Panel chaired by Jackie Marsh.

    Journal of Research in Reading (JRR)
    Melby-Lervåg, M., Lervåg, A. (2011) Cross-linguistic transfer of oral language, decoding, phonological awareness and reading comprehension: a meta-analysis of the correlational evidence.
    Journal of Research in Reading. Vol 34:1 pp.114-135

    Moss.G., (2011) Policy and the search for explanations for the gender gap in literacy attainment.
    Literacy. Vol 45:3 pp.111-118

    UKLA Academic Book Award - Awarded every two years

    2011 Winner: Margaret Mallett
    Choosing and using fiction and Non-Fiction 3-11

    UKLA Literacy School of the Year: A school where literacy thrives- This is a new award

    Frederick Bird School, Coventry

    John Downing Award - Awarded every two years. Awarded to inspirational, creative teachers of literacy.

    2011 Winner Jo Scott
    Rowley Lane Junior
    Infant and Nursery School, Huddersfield

    New Zealand Awards

    New Zealand Literacy Association Honour Council Awards

    Hawkes Bay

    New Zealand Literacy Association Marie Clay Literacy Trust International Literacy Conference Travel Award

    Jane Carroll, Otago Reading Association
    Awarded for travel to Spain for the International Workshop on Reading and Developmental Dyslexia

    International Reading Association Award for Innovative Reading Promotion in Europe

    Yvonne Mullan, Reading Association of Ireland (RAI)
    An Intervention to Improve the Literacy Skills of Deaf Children

    ira 2013 international awards

    For more information on awards and grants, visit the IRA awards webpage.


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  • council leadership academyCouncil Leadership Academy presenters share the hot topics they will discuss at the professional development event in Minneapolis in the end of June.
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    Leadership Tips and Expert Advice at Upcoming Council Academy

     | Jun 13, 2013

    Excitement is building for the 2013 Council Leadership Academy, the four-day professional development opportunity for International Reading Association (IRA) council leaders and future leaders entitled “Destination Success.”

    The Academy features presenters who are highly-experienced literacy educators and business professionals with backgrounds in council governance and outreach issues including strategic planning, finance, advocacy, communications, and marketing.

    Expert presenters include East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania Reading Department Chair and IRA President Maureen McLaughlin, New Jersey City University Professor and IRA President-Elect Jill Lewis-Spector, Judson University Professor and IRA Board Member Steven Layne. Also presenting are IRA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post, IRA Director of Government Relations Richard Long, IRA Director of Business Linda Marston, IRA Director of Marketing Stephen Sye, IRA Senior Writer and Content Strategist Lara Deloza, and IRA Leadership Development Associates Rayann Mitchell and Tiffany Sears.

    Jill Lewis-Spector and Richard Long will be presenting in-depth sessions on current education legislation and policy and how to interact with government officials on local, state, and federal levels.

    “We can see that the combination of budget cuts, de-professionalization of teachers, and new policy directions for public schools have negatively impacted literacy programs and instruction, and have ultimately harmed students’ literacy progress,” says Lewis-Spector. “We must advocate for change to bring more positive results for ourselves, our students, and our schools. Council leaders and, in fact all educators, should realize how they, their students, and their profession can benefit from being education advocates. Advocating together can bring positive results and contribute to building new, rewarding, and exciting professional communities.”

    Council members challenged with reaching their membership or confused by all of the social media options will benefit from the communications session with Lara Deloza and Tiffany Sears.

    “The most important thing about our session is that communication plans are not ‘one size fits all.’ That’s why our session isn’t either,” says Sears. “Attendees will leave with a practical plan developed with their specific needs in mind.”

    Deloza adds, “Participating in social media is no longer optional. The good thing is that social media provides various avenues by which councils can engage and grow membership. [A common] misconception is that developing a communication plan that includes social media is hard. Another misconception is that it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to implement these programs. The session will demystify social media and provide attendees with practical tools to craft a solid communication program.”

    Council Leadership AcademyRayann Mitchell leads a strategic planning session on Friday and teams with the other presenters throughout the Academy for strategic planning sessions and roundtables. Council leaders in attendance will be close to finalizing their strategic plans by the end of the Academy.

    “The session ‘Oh the Places You Will Go’ on Friday is on strategic planning, focusing on big priorities, and utilizing the leadership team to accomplish wildly important goals,” Mitchell says. “Participants will take away both a one-word inspirational focus for the year and a four step plan for executing strategy within their councils to achieve success.”

    The presenters will help council leaders discern their challenges and develop clear objectives during several interactive sessions throughout the Academy.

    “We can't keep doing things the way we've always done them and expect different results,” Mitchell explains. “If we are going to survive and thrive, we have to create a new model of functioning—one that is responsive to our members’ needs and respects the values, skills, and talents of a new generation of leaders. The type of [strategic] planning that we are suggesting still contains long-range goals and short-term objectives, but it utilizes the acronym SMARTEST (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely & tangible, engaging, shifting, and team effort) to give leaders the flexibility to adjust as needed.  Participants will learn the power of laser-light focus on a few wildly important goals and the achievement that results.”

    See the complete program schedule on the Council Leadership Academy webpage.

    Space is still available for the Council Leadership Academy, which will be held June 27 to 30, 2013, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Find more information and register on the Council Leadership Academy webpage.


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