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    Dana A. Robertson Named Vice President of ILA Board of Directors

    By ILA Staff
     | May 29, 2024

    Dana-Robertson_500x500The International Literacy Association (ILA) announced the results of the ILA 2024 Board Election today, introducing Dana A. Robertson as the newly elected vice president of the Board.

    Robertson, associate professor of reading/literacy education and the program leader of the Reading and Literacy Education Program at Virginia Tech, brings a wealth of experience and dedication to the role.

    An ILA member since 2005, Robertson has been serving as a member-at-large on the Board since 2021. His new term begins July 1, 2024, and he will assume the presidency of the Board on July 1, 2025.

    Robertson is a former classroom teacher, literacy specialist and literacy coach. His research focuses on classroom discourse and oral language, comprehension instruction, reading and writing challenges, literacy coaching and teacher professional learning. Recognized as an Emerging Scholar by the Reading Hall of Fame in 2013, Robertson has since coauthored and coedited three books, including Innovation, Equity, and Sustainability in Literacy Professional Learning, authored and coauthored four book chapters, and published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals, including ILA’s The Reading Teacher and Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy.

    Robertson is the current chair of the ILA Research Committee. During his time on the Board, he also served on the National Recognition Commission, Global Committee, and Finance Committee. His commitment to the organization was steadfast prior to Board service. He was a writer for ILA’s Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals, 2017 Edition and a reviewer for the ILA Certificate of Distinction. He served on the Board Nominations Committee, was a writer for Literacy Today member magazine, a peer reviewer for The Reading Teacher, and a frequent presenter for digital events and annual conferences.

    "At ILA, we have been diligently refining our thought leadership, member resources, and outreach to better serve our global membership, which has expanded member engagement and brought a rich diversity of perspectives to the conversations,” Robertson said. “These initiatives are just starting points that I believe will take root and multiply over the coming years. We must advocate for work that reflects global needs and understandings of literacy teaching and learning. In doing so, we will continue to ensure broader representation and reach.”

    Three new Board members-at-large were also elected for the 2024–2027 term:

    Sonja-Ezell_500x500

    Sonja Ezell, associate professor and clinical assistant professor, College of Education, University of Texas at Arlington. An ILA member since 2014, Ezell is the current chair of ILA’s Children’s & Young Adult Book Awards Committee. She has been a frequent presenter at past conferences and digital events and served as a peer reviewer for Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. Her research interests include early childhood literacy, educator preparation, multicultural children’s literature, and social-emotional learning.



    Delilah-Gonzalez_500x500Delilah Gonzales, associate professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Texas Southern University. An ILA member since 2010, Gonzales is also the university’s director of Field Experience and Clinical Practice. Her research interests include literacy and language development.




    Katina-Zammit_500x500Katina Zammit, associate professor, School of Education, Western Sydney University. An ILA member since 2006, Zammit serves on ILA’s International Development in Oceania Committee. She is also president of the ILA affiliate Australian Literacy Educators’ Association. Her research interests include pedagogy for students from low socioeconomic, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, multimodality, and leadership for pedagogical change. 

    Ezell, Gonzalez, Robertson, and Zammit were elected by ILA’s membership during the ILA 2024 Board Election, which was conducted online between April 1 and April 30, 2024. The new vice president and members-at-large will begin their terms on July 1, 2024.

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    Tech It Out: Delaware Elementary School Library Gets Major Upgrades, Thanks in Part to Funding From ILA

    ILA Staff
     | Mar 05, 2024
    Pleasantville_w680

    Pleasantville Elementary, a K–Grade 5 school in New Castle, Delaware, recently unveiled its fully renovated, future-forward library–a project funded in part by ILA (made possible through a grant from the Delaware Community Foundation).  

    kiosk

    The initiative aims to create a more engaging and efficient learning environment by leveraging innovative technology, such as a new RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system that includes student-fiend kiosks that make self checkouts a snap. Now, any student who comes to the library can leave without a book, even if the library staff are teaching a class or otherwise engaged in group work.

    The RFID chips have simplified the process of tracking inventory as well. Now, an entire bookshelf can be logged in with a wave of a scanning “wand.” In other words, what used to take an entire week can now be finished in a couple of hours.

    The same software can be used to monitor the types of books students are checking out and track other information about the collection, such as how long a particular book has been on the shelves.

    For instance, in 2016, the average age of a book in Colonial School District’s libraries was 22 years old. But no one knew that until Colonial partnered with the Delaware Library Consortium and the libraries were thoroughly audited.

    KidsAtKiosk“We discovered that circulation in most of our schools was around 20 percent, which is quite low,” said Tom Gavin, Colonial’s Supervisor of Instructional Technology & Libraries.

    In 2017, he reported, Pleasantville's circulation was a dismal 4 percent. But thanks to the new technology and revitalized collection—one that reflects the rich diversity and interests of the student body—circulation has leaped to nearly 91 percent. 

    Moving forward, Pleasantville aims to retire most books after seven years, replacing those cycled out with new offerings. The RFID helps with that, too: New books come shelf-ready, their RFID chip already implanted. All that’s needed is a wave of the wand and that book is ready for its new home.

    One thing the RFID hasn’t replaced: the librarian. “The role might not have the same name,” said Colonial School District Superintendent Jeff Menzer, but library staff remain “essential” to a child’s literacy development.

     

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    ILA’s Awards & Grants: Conversations With Past Winners (Part I of III)

    By ILA Staff
     | Feb 13, 2024

     awards-and-grants_680wAs we enter the final few weeks of the submissions period for the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) awards and grants program, we’re taking a look back at some of our past recipients and their significant contributions to literacy teaching and research.

    Below, in Part I of our series, we delve into the experiences of some remarkable individuals. Each interview provides valuable insights into the impact of being recognized, how grant recipients used their funding, and why they believe initiatives like ILA’s awards program are vital for moving the field of literacy forward.

    After reading, don’t forget to follow their advice: Submit a nomination for yourself or a colleague by March 15. There are awards for students, educators, and scholars, and funding opportunities for research that you won’t want to miss.

     
     

    SarahLupo_150Sarah Lupo

    Associate Professor of Literacy Education, James Madison University
    Timothy & Cynthia Shanahan Outstanding Dissertation Award, 2018 Finalist
    Steven A. Stahl Research Grant, 2016


    How did receiving an award from ILA impact you both personally and professionally?

    For the grant, it gave me funds to do a much more rigorous dissertation than I would have been able to do without funding. For both awards, it confirmed that the work I was doing was relevant to the field of literacy and gave me motivation to keep on with my research. I also really enjoyed participating in the poster session for Outstanding Dissertation finalists at the ILA annual conference. I met some great people who were at a similar place in their careers to me and learned a lot.

    Can you share a specific project or initiative that was made possible through the support of the award/grant, and how it has contributed to advancing literacy education?

    For the grant I received, I was able to complete my dissertation, which explored whether matching ninth graders with texts at their level (using Newsela texts) helped their comprehension. It did not! Although null findings, this was an important finding for the field because many teachers are relying on text algorithm tools like Newsela to differentiate, rather than looking for ways to support readers in reading more difficult texts which, this study as well as others, has shown to be more effective in increasing literacy skills for adolescents. I was able to publish the findings eventually in Reading Research Quarterly five years ago and this piece has now been cited 53 times. A practitioner version of this (“Struggle is Not a Bad Word”) was published in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy and has been cited 29 times. This study was only possible because of the grant I received from ILA.

    How do you believe ILA’s awards and grants program contributes to raising awareness about the importance of literacy and its impact on individuals and communities?

    I think it helps show people where the pulse is for literacy research in our field. I have served on one of the awards committees since then and I always love seeing what folks are working on.

    For educators and researchers considering applying for the current awards and grants submissions period, what advice or insights would you offer based on your experience?

    I’d say go for it! I was pretty unsure I would receive either of these awards, but it worked out. Reach out to your mentors and ask them to review your work and talk to as many people as you can. It’s worth it!

     
     

    PatEdwards_150wPatricia A. Edwards

    University Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University
    Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading Award, 2014
    Elva Knight Research Grant, 1995



    How did receiving an award from the ILA impact you both personally and professionally?

    Receiving the Elva Knight Research Grant for my project titled “Examining Dialogues Used in Facilitating Parental Understanding of First Graders’ Reading, Writing, and Development” has been an immensely rewarding experience both personally and professionally. First and foremost, the recognition of my project as promising research that addresses significant questions within the discipline of reading/literacy research and practice filled me with a sense of validation and accomplishment. It was truly an honor to have my work acknowledged in this way.

    Professionally, receiving this award opened doors for me to make meaningful contributions to the field. Presenting my findings at the IRA annual meeting and the Michigan Reading Association not only allowed me to share my research with fellow educators and researchers but also provided a platform to engage in fruitful discussions and exchange ideas. Moreover, being recognized with the Elva Knight Research Grant has increased my visibility and credibility within the reading/literacy research community, affording me the opportunity to further contribute to the advancement of the field.

    Can you share a specific project or initiative that was made possible through the support of the award/grant, and how it has contributed to advancing literacy education? 

    The Elva Knight Research Grant proved to be a pivotal moment in my academic journey. This grant not only provided the necessary support to conduct my research but also opened doors to further opportunities in advancing literacy education. In particular, the insights gained from the Elva Knight Research Grant led to the receipt of a small Spencer Grant, which empowered me to author the 1999 Heinemann book titled A Path to Follow: Learning to Listen to Parents. Remarkably, this book has since reached a wide audience, with sales exceeding 50,000 copies. Reflecting on these achievements, it is evident that the Elva Research Grant has played a crucial role in my contributions to advancing literacy education, underscoring its significance in shaping my professional trajectory.

    Looking back, how has the recognition and support from ILA motivated you to continue your efforts in advancing literacy, and what future goals do you have in this regard?

    The recognition and support from ILA served as a significant catalyst in my writing journey. Motivated by this encouragement, I have authored several books aimed at empowering educators and fostering family involvement in student achievement. Among these publications are Tapping the Potential of Parents: A Strategic Guide to Boosting Student Achievement Through Family Involvement (Scholastic), Children’s Literacy Development: Making It Happen Through School, Family, and Community Involvement (Pearson), and New Ways to Engage Parents: Strategies and Tools for Teachers and Leaders (Teachers College Press), the latter of which was honored with the 2017 Delta Kappa Gamma Educators Book Award.

    In addition, my 2019 release from Teachers College Press, Partnering With Families for Student Success: 24 Scenarios for Problem Solving With Parents, was recommended for the 2021 AACTE Outstanding Book Award. This book aims to equip teachers with the skills to effectively collaborate with caregivers from diverse linguistic, cultural, racial, and social backgrounds. Furthermore, my latest work, Teaching With Literacy Programs: Equitable Instruction for All (Harvard Education Press), underscores the premise that while core literacy programs offer valuable starting points aligned with current research and standards, they are inherently limited. Through this book, I endeavor to empower educators with equitable instructional strategies to meet the diverse needs of all learners.

    Have there been any unexpected benefits or outcomes as a result of receiving the award/grant that you didn’t anticipate?

    Receiving the award/grant has led to several unexpected benefits and outcomes that I could not have foreseen. For instance, in 2006, I was honored to be named the first African American president of the National Reading Conference, later renamed the Literacy Research Association (LRA). This position not only provided me with a platform to advocate for literacy education but also paved the way for me to become president of the International Reading Association (now ILA) in 2010, further expanding my influence in the field.

    Another unexpected outcome occurred in 2012 when I was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame. This recognition was particularly meaningful as I became one of the few African American women to receive this esteemed accolade, highlighting the significance of diversity in literacy research and practice.

    In 2019, I was humbled to receive the Scholars of Color Distinguished Career Contribution Award at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference. This honor underscored the impact of my work in education and reinforced my commitment to advancing equity and inclusion in academic spaces.

    Additionally, in 2020, I had the honor of being named the first African American recipient of the Oscar S. Causey Award from LRA, recognized as the pinnacle of achievement in reading research. This unexpected distinction not only affirmed the significance of my contributions to the field but also underscored the vital role of representation and diversity in academia. Furthermore, in 2022, I was chosen to be featured in The HistoryMakers, a digital archive documenting the Black experience in the United States, further highlighting the importance of diverse voices in shaping our collective narrative.

     
     

    StephanieReid_150Stephanie F. Reid

    Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, University of Cincinnati
    Helen M. Robinson Grant, 2019


     

    How did receiving a grant from the ILA impact you both personally and professionally?

    Receiving the Helen M. Robinson Grant in 2019 was an honor. I felt validated in my work with teachers and students in middle school contexts and was grateful for the funding support for my dissertation work. At that time, my identity as a scholar and researcher felt very new. I had taught middle schoolers language arts and reading for many years, so stepping into my doctoral program was a significant life change for me. Earning recognition through ILA’s Helen M. Robinson Grant helped affirm my decision to move in this new professional direction and offered me the opportunity to speak to the significance of my scholarship on multimodal approaches to literacy education.

    Can you share a specific project or initiative that was made possible through the support of the grant, and how it has contributed to advancing literacy education?

    The Helen M. Robinson Grant supported my research in a seventh-grade language arts classroom. With the classroom teacher, I codesigned an eight-week curriculum unit that invited students to read and compose multimodal texts. Findings from this study have been shared through numerous articles, book chapters, and presentations. When possible, I coauthored and copresented with Justin Scholes, the teacher who welcomed me into his classroom community. In this moment, when so much attention is focused on decoding written language, this study is a reminder that words are not the only ways people communicate and connect with each other. The ability to make meaning with images and other modes matters, too. The importance of making, comprehending, and critiquing the kinds of multimodal texts that saturate students’ social worlds must not be lost in current conversations about what counts as reading and writing in schools.

    Looking back, how has the recognition and support from ILA motivated you to continue your efforts in advancing literacy, and what future goals do you have in this regard?

    Today, I continue to build upon the research that the Helen M. Robinson Grant supported. I have continued to explore how multimodal literacy approaches might be enacted in classrooms where students have time and agency to read and compose multimodal texts. Most recently, I worked with an eighth-grade teacher, Rita Thorson, who made curricular space for students to compose accounts of their pandemic lives. I hope to continue to showcase students’ reading and writing, illuminating their brilliance and sharing their perspectives on school literacy practices. I also hope to continue exploring how multimodal literacies intersect with other disciplines—art education and special education, for example. I am constantly looking for ways to evolve and share my understanding of what it means to be a reader, writer, speaker, listener, viewer, and thinker in these current times.

    For educators and researchers considering applying for the current awards and grants submissions period, what advice or insights would you offer based on your experience?

    I felt that one of the most important outcomes of the grant writing process was the clarity I gained through writing the proposal. The proposal format encourages a succinct and streamlined account of the research questions, relevant literature, and study procedures. Most important for me, the application also invited me to think about the significance of my scholarship and state clearly the impact I hoped to make. I have been an educator for nearly 25 years. Keeping sight of my “why” continues to fuel my lifelong investment in literacy education.

     
     

    JungminKwon_150wJungmin Kwon

    Assistant Professor of Language and Literacy, Michigan State University
    Helen M. Robinson Grant, 2018


     

    Can you share a specific project or initiative that was made possible through the support of the grant, and how it has contributed to advancing literacy education?

    I received the Helen M. Robinson Grant in 2018, which supports doctoral students in the early stages of their dissertations in the area of reading and literacy. My dissertation project focused on the language and literacy experiences of immigrant children and families in the context of transnational migration. Taking a multi-sited ethnographic approach, I documented immigrant children’s literacy experiences by observing their experiences in various settings, such as homes, schools, playgrounds, grocery stores, and museums across countries. I also employed what I call child-centered interview activities, during which I used mapping, drawing, and photo-elicitation interviews as a way to explore the children’s transnational and multilingual experiences and to center their voices through a multimodal approach. After finishing my dissertation, I turned this project into a book, which is entitled Understanding the Transnational Lives and Literacies of Immigrant Children (Teachers College Press).

    Receiving the recognition and support from ILA for my work meant a lot to me as a doctoral student. This grant award reaffirmed my dedication to working with immigrant children and amplifying their voices, and it has motivated me to continue the work that can contribute to expanding the notion of literacy and understanding of immigrant children and families.

     

    Stay tuned for Part II of our series next week!

     
     
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    Nominations Open for the William S. Gray Citation of Merit

    By ILA Staff
     | Jan 30, 2024
    WillianSGray2023_650w

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) is calling for nominations for the prestigious William S. Gray Citation of Merit, an accolade that pays tribute to outstanding individuals who have left an indelible mark on the field. Established in 1957, this award serves as a lifetime achievement recognition for literacy leaders who have made unparalleled contributions to literacy development.

    The esteemed award, named after the eminent literacy scholar William S. Gray, is the highest individual honor awarded by ILA. Gray, the first president of the International Reading Association (now ILA), laid our foundation for serving and honoring those whose groundbreaking work has significantly influenced literacy research, theory, practice, and policy.

    The illustrious list of past honorees of the Citation of Merit reads like a hall of fame, showcasing luminaries such as

    • P. David Pearson
    • Jeanne S. Chall
    • Nila Banton Smith
    • Dorothy Strickland
    • Brian Cambourne
    • Nell K. Duke

    A complete archive of past recipients can be found on the Citation of Merit web page.

    If you know someone deserving of joining the ranks of these esteemed individuals, then submit a nomination by March 15. Eligible nominees are ILA members who have made outstanding contributions across multiple facets of literacy development, including but not limited to research, theory, and practice. To learn more, visit literacyworldwide.org/awards.

    Maintaining Gray’s legacy

    Referred to as “the father of reading,” William S. Gray (1885–1960) dedicated his life to advancing literacy education and lived by the phrase he popularized: “every teacher a teacher of reading.”

    His academic journey led him from teaching elementary school in Illinois to earning a master's degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1914, and earning a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1916. Gray remained with the University of Chicago until his retirement in 1950, during which time he held key roles including dean of the school of education.

    Gray was considered the leading expert on reading for the first half of the 20th century. He was cocreator of the Dick and Jane book series that began publishing in the 1920s, became a staple of elementary classrooms, and is credited with teaching 85 million children how to read. He conducted a worldwide study of literacy for UNESCO that resulted in the book The Teaching of Reading and Writing: An International Survey. In total, his extensive body of work included more than 500 studies, reviews, articles, and books, which also included On Their Own in Reading: How to Give Children Independence in Analyzing New Words.

    In 1935, Gray and Bernice Leary published their landmark work in readability, What Makes a Book Readable.

    Gray cofounded the International Reading Association and served as the organization's first president from 1955–1956.

    As we carry on his legacy, we invite you to join us by submitting your nominations for the Citation of Merit or any of ILA’s other opportunities in the 2024 awards and grants program. Let us celebrate the tireless efforts of those who continue to shape the future of literacy education.

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    In Memoriam: Remembering Patricia S. Koppman

    ILA Staff
     | Nov 20, 2023

    Koppman_680Patricia S. Koppman, a distinguished educator who left her mark on the San Diego State University community and the literacy community at large, died on November 9. She was 88.

    Koppman served as the 1988–1989 president of the International Reading Association (IRA), now the International Literacy Association. She began her career as an elementary school teacher, reading specialist, and principal before teaching at San Diego State College—which would soon become San Diego State University.

    A prolific author and editor, Patricia's contributions to the field included books such as School Grammar Made Easy and Word to Learn and Review: Activities to Build Reading Skills, as well as multiple teacher guides and student early reader books.

    Her commitment to literacy education was recognized through the numerous awards she received throughout her career. In 1991, she was honored with the Special Service Award from IRA for her years of service to the organization, which extended beyond the presidency. She also actively participated in IRA's Parents and Reading Committee, showcasing her dedication to advocating for family involvement in reading education—one of the areas of research she was most known for. She was recognized as a fierce advocate for listening to children and forming meaningful connections with parents to help them understand the role they could play at home in their child’s reading education.

    In 1987, Patricia was honored with the SDSU Alumni Award of Distinction, recognizing her outstanding service and significant contributions to San Diego State University, where until recent years she was highly involved in the university’s retirement association.

    Patricia leaves behind an indelible legacy as a leader, teacher, author, and advocate who devoted her life to the pursuit of knowledge.

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