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    Advocate, Leader, Humanitarian: ILA Mourns the Loss of Dr. William H. Teale

    By Lara Deloza
     | Feb 05, 2018

    teale-headshotToday the literacy field is reeling from the loss of an influential educator, tireless advocate, and dear friend, Dr. William H. Teale.

    Teale, the Immediate Past President of the International Literacy Association (ILA), passed away unexpectedly Saturday, in his home in Evanston, IL. He is survived by his loving wife, Junko Yokota, and two children, Alyssa and Jeremy, among other family members and friends.

    He was a professor of education, university scholar, and director of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Literacy (CFL), a public service and research center that works to improve literacy education, policy, and research at the local, state, and national levels. As part of his role at the CFL, he headed projects that provide economically underresourced families with services that facilitate their children’s early development and school readiness.

    Teale’s body of work focused on early literacy learning, the intersection of technology and literacy education, and children’s literature. One current project centered on the implementation of a networked improvement community focused on principals' instructional leadership for literacy in eight Chicago public schools. He authored more than 150 professional publications and traveled constantly, presenting conference papers and colloquia in over 25 countries around the world.

    He served as a consultant to school districts and libraries across the United States, as well as to Children’s Television Workshop, Head Start, public television, Reach Out and Read, and NGOs in developing programs focused on literacy learning and teaching. In review and advisory capacities, he worked for entities such as the National Academy of Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    The contributions he made to the field are immeasurable and led to his induction into the Reading Hall of Fame in 2003.

    teale-action-shotDuring his tenure on the Board of Directors of ILA, including his 2016–17 term as president, Teale led several initiatives, including cochairing the ILA Global Task Force, a group that worked to emphasize a global agenda and matching model of governance in the organization. He was an integral member of the ILA/National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Task Force on Literacy Teacher Preparation. He also helped guide the organization during its transition from the International Reading Association to ILA.

    Although his list of professional accomplishments and honors are plentiful enough to fill a book, the hole he leaves in the literacy community runs so much deeper.

    Teale was incredibly passionate about early literacy and the importance of diverse, quality children’s literature, and he decried the inequities across the globe that denied access to both. He was the very definition of a literacy leader.

    “These are trying times,” he said in his keynote address at the ILA 2017 Conference. “And there’s nothing more important than what we as educators do to help develop readers and writers who have the knowledge and the imagination and the self-reflection and the empathy to make the times better.”

    He leaves behind a legacy as a staunch early literacy advocate, a devoted mentor, and an incredible human being.

    Lara Deloza is the senior communications manager at the International Literacy Association.

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    The Transforming Power of Reading Aloud

    By Pam Allyn
     | Jan 30, 2018

    wrad-2018Before I began reading on my own, my mother’s voice brought the letters and colorful characters of my picture books to life. Her voice, combined with the authors’ journeys, created within me a sense of well-being as well as the belief that I could be and do many things in the world. Many years later, that feeling has turned me into a lifelong reader, and has inspired me to create LitWorld to make sure every child gets to experience the joy that reading brings to a person’s soul and spirit.

    Literacy is an act of power and freedom. It is why slaves in our wrenching and painful U.S. history were forbidden to learn to read and write, and why young girls living in repressive societies today are kept out of the classroom. When children realize the power of narrative, they begin to dismantle patriarchy, racism, and oppression. In a true democratic society, every child has these tools of literacy to both absorb the stories of the world and to tell his or her own.

    The most effective way to cultivate a love of reading in children is to read to them. A study conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that reading aloud to children every day puts them almost a year ahead (academically) of children who do not receive daily read-aloud. This practice sets the stage for lifelong success.

    LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) was inspired by a conversation with a young student. I was reading a book aloud to him and his classmates when he looked at me and said, “Mrs. Allyn, let’s make sure everyone knows how good this feels. Let’s have a holiday for the read-aloud.” I realized that sometimes in education we have this idea that if something is fun for children, it must not good for them. But here, we have a purely simple case; the read-aloud, yes, is fun for children, but also deeply good for them (and for democracy).

    There’s much more to reading aloud than reciting words from a page. It’s a meaningful experience for your students (at all ages), and fine-tuning it is key to fostering a passion for stories, language, and social justice in everyone.

    Here are five ways to create a home or classroom environment for more impactful read-aloud:

    1. Designate a special place and time for reading aloud: Whether it’s creating an elaborate fort together or something simpler, like a reading “nook,” building a safe space allows kids to relax and open up for conversation and to engage around the books you are reading together.
    2. Keep track of books that inspire the richest conversations: Make a file on your device to save favorite read-aloud titles. Find space in your classroom to post children’s reviews and comments after reading. Document the journey together, valuing the titles that invite new worlds and/or reflect your deepest selves.
    3. Solicit your students for story recommendations and books they want to read (and read again) to share ownership of the read aloud experience: Scholastic, our extraordinary sponsor in WRAD, published the Kids and Family Reading Report, which shows that children are most likely to finish (and enjoy) books they choose themselves.
    4. Make read-aloud a performance: Invite students from other classrooms, teachers, librarians, staff, parents, grandparents and members of the local community. Stage a play, read aloud from children’s own narratives, or host a read-aloud-athon on World Read Aloud Day to bring the importance of reading aloud to the fore.
    5. Use read-aloud as a tool for social justice and equity: By discussing a shared text, we can honor and hear quieter voices in our classrooms and at home. Make sure to stop for “turn and talks” during the read-aloud and to select books that reflect a wide range of cultures, languages, and perspectives.

    In this way, multiple voices and stories wash over your community like a cleansing, celebratory rain, signifying the start of a new era and a time when all children’s voices matter and will be heard.

    Join us on February 1 (and the other 364 days of the year!) to see reading and literacy transform children’s lives. Visit us at litworld.org/wrad to find related resources and our Facebook page to see (and post) photos from across the world in the coming days and weeks. Remember to use the tag #WorldReadAloudDay to share your experiences!

    pamallynheadshotPam Allyn is the founding director of LitWorld, a global literacy initiative serving children across the United States and in more than 60 countries, and LitLife, a cutting-edge consulting group working with schools to enrich best practice teaching methods and building curriculum for reading and writing.

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    ILA's 2018 What's Hot in Literacy Report Shows Educators Prioritize Issues of Equity, Access, and Quality

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jan 08, 2018
    2018-wh-reportThe International Literacy Association (ILA) released the 2018 What's Hot in Literacy survey findings today, revealing wide gaps between what’s truly valuable to educators around the globe and what’s getting the most attention from the media, policymakers and others in the field.


    The ILA 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report provides a snapshot of what 2,097 literacy professionals from 91 countries and territories deem the most critical topics to advancing literacy worldwide.

    The survey asked respondents to rate 17 literacy-related topics in terms of what’s hot and what’s important. Topping the hot list for the second year in a row: Digital Literacy, a topic that dropped from No. 8 in 2017 to No. 13 in terms of importance.

    On the flip side, topics such as Access to Books and Content, Mother Tongue Literacy and Equity in Literacy Education ranked significantly higher in importance than they did heat. These gaps reflect the challenges of teaching in today’s world, such as a rise in racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity; a growing number of English learners; and an unequitable distribution of resources in classrooms—and illustrate a growing number of unmet needs in these areas.

    “We learned that many educators, working with increasingly diverse student bodies, do not have sufficient training, parental support or resources to respond to student needs,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “This survey helps us to identify where more support is needed so we can provide solutions.”

    Respondents recognized positive early literacy experiences, family engagement and professional preparation and development as among the most critical factors for advancing literacy for all.

    Equity and access go hand in hand: Respondents indicated not only that issues of both equity and access should be a higher priority, but many also remarked that schools bear the responsibility of providing equitable opportunities and resources for all students.

    • According to 86% of respondents, Equity in Literacy Education is extremely or very important, placing it in the No. 2 spot.
    • Access to Books and Content—giving students access to content and books that are relevant for all learners, for both pleasure and academic reading—is rated extremely or very important by 82% of all respondents.
    • Outside of the United States, 71% of respondents said Mother Tongue Literacy is very or extremely important, compared with 62% of respondents from the United States. U.S. respondents are also less likely to say this topic is hot.
    • Strategies for Differentiating Instruction—tailoring instruction to accommodate each individual student's needs—ranks among the top five most important and hottest topics overall.
    The community–literacy connection: One of the greatest predictors of lifelong success, early literacy experiences create the foundation for learning in all subject areas.Many respondents remarked on the importance of exposing young children to books, words, stories and more—early and often. Respondents also noted the importance of involving families and community-based organizations in these early literacy activities.

    • Early Literacy remains the No. 1 most important topic for the second year and ranks as the second hottest topic overall.
    • Only 35% of respondents said Family Engagement is very or extremely hot, whereas 79% of respondents believe that it is very or extremely important.
    Excellence in literacy education: Another important aspect of equitable education is ensuring teachers’ readiness to respond to their students’ unique literacy strengths and needs. Respondents expressed that improvement initiatives often focus too much on standards and not enough on the conditions of teaching and learning in schools. Results show a desire for more preparation and knowledge for wider support and involvement across communities.

    • Teacher Preparation holds the highest gap among the topics, ranking No. 3 among important topics but No. 12 among hot topics.
    • According to 73% of respondents, Administrators as Literacy Leaders is very or extremely important, but only 29% said that it’s very or extremely hot.
    • Often associated with standardized tests, Summative Assessments—measurements of student achievement and acquisition of literacy skills at the conclusion of an instructional period—is viewed as a hot topic (at No. 3) but the least important (coming in at No. 17).
    The full survey findings are available in the ILA 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, available at literacyworldwide.org/whatshot.

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of
    Literacy Daily.
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    You Can Now Register for ILA West 2018: “Literacy: A Pathway to Equity”

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Nov 15, 2017
    ILA West 2018

    September marked the 60th anniversary of Little Rock Nine, a pivotal moment in the march toward educational equity in the United States. Yet, despite tremendous progress made over the last six decades, data show that racial gaps stubbornly remain. As we examine inequity across the United States, we know that literacy is the gatekeeper to overall academic success—opening a world of possibilities for students.

    As educators, what can we do to help close the achievement gap for minority and low-income students? And what role does literacy play in these efforts? With so many factors to consider—pedagogy, technology, assessment, teacher preparation, professional learning, and more—where do we begin?

    ILA will confront these questions head-on at ILA West 2018, to take place March 16–17 in San Diego, CA. With the theme “Literacy: A Pathway to Equity,” the inaugural conference will give attendees the tools they need to attain more equitable learning environments through general session talks, hands-on learning, and community building.

    “ILA believes that literacy is integral to leveling outcomes for kids,” said ILA President of the Board Doug Fisher, during an appearance on Education Talk Radio today. “[ILA West 2018] is a really powerful event to help us think about what do we need to do to ratchet up our learning expectations and our strategies to deliver on that promise.”

    Among 19 celebrated leaders in educational equity, keynote speakers Stephen Peters, superintendent of Laurens County School District 55, South Carolina, and CEO and president of the Peters Group; Glenn Singleton, founder of Pacific Educational Group Inc. (PEG) and author of Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools; and Valerie Ooka Pang, professor at San Diego State University and author of Diversity and Equity in the Classroom and Multicultural Education: A Caring-Centered, Reflective Approach; will share their equity-based, literacy-driven, blueprints for reform.

    Attendees will also hear from Olivia Amador, founder of Few for Change, Jana Echevarria, internationally known researcher and codeveloper of the SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) Model, and Cornelius Minor, lead staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

    Designed to deliver more focused sessions and to encourage a schoolwide approach, ILA West 2018 will feature three strands—teachers and coaches, early childhood educators, and administrators. All attendees will leave with culturally responsive pedagogical approaches; practical, proven “use-it-tomorrow” instructional strategies; administrative supports, and more.

    “Every student deserves a great teacher. Not by chance, but by design,” said Fisher. “A lot of our education is up to chance. We’re on a mission to reduce that variability.”

    Over the next few months, we’ll introduce some of the faces of ILA West 2018 and offer sneak peeks into programming. Stay tuned!  

    Learn more or register for ILA West 2018 here.

    Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Year in Review: Catching Up With Some of ILA's 30 Under 30 Honorees

    By Maura C. Ciccarelli
     | Sep 21, 2017

    Jeff FondaA lot has happened since last September when ILA announced its 2016 class of 30 Under 30 honorees, a list that celebrates the up-and-coming generation of literacy champions. After hearing from Kathryn Lett at the Closing General Session of the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, we also wanted to check in with her fellow honorees to see what they’ve been up to.

    Read on to see how some of their lives have changed and how they continued to change the lives of so many others in just the past year.

    Babar Ali, founder and headmaster of Ananda Siksha Niketan (“Home of Joyful Learning”) in Murshidabad, India, announced that the first floor of his new free school was constructed in early 2017, enabling even more students to enroll this year. Students also are taking part in a social forestry program to promote awareness of the problems around deforestation, and senior students are working with the school’s adult literacy program to spread learning wider in the community.

    Seventh-grade English teacher Alex Corbitt spent last year at his school, MS331 in the Bronx, New York, developing and facilitating a Teen Activism class that used current events to focus on social justice issues such as the prison industrial complex, racism in society, mental health, substance abuse, animal rights, and bullying. “The 2016–2017 school year was fraught with sociopolitical tragedy and confusion,” he says. “Our Teen Activism class created a space for my students and me to reflect, process, listen, and heal.”

    For Tanyella Evans, cofounder/CEO of the New York-based Library For All, the last year has seen close to 10,000 children from 50 schools in Haiti, Rwanda, Congo, Cambodia, and Mongolia get free access to their online reading library accessible by low-cost mobile devices. The library now includes 3,806 titles in seven languages. While creating the library, the group discovered a surprising gap: As many as 40% of people around the world are not learning to read a language they speak or understand. In response, Library For All launched writer workshops to teach local authors and illustrators how to publish e-books in their native language. The first two were held earlier this year in Haiti and another was hosted in Montreal, with members of the Haitian diaspora. Kids in Haiti got to “test read” print versions of some of the books. “They were delighted to see an entire stack of books written in their own language, with illustrations of Haitian children and landscape that remind them of home,” Evans says.

    Since last year, Jeff Fonda’s nonprofit, The Literate Earth Project, has opened three more libraries in Uganda: at Lwani Memorial College in Amuru District, Nkumba Quran Primary School in Entebbe District, and St. James Primary School in Entebbe District. The project, which is based in Pennsylvania, has now created 13 libraries and is on target to meet its goal of creating four each year.

    In Brazil, Gustavo Fuga’s 4You2 social program continues to teach English to help people access higher education opportunities and have the potential to earn an additional 64% in wages. This spring, the group further honed its teaching tools and methodology. “We would like to launch a literacy project for papers and research this year,” he says.

    Anneli Hershman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student, reports that her literacy app development team at the MIT Media Lab completed an extensive research pilot with families using their SpeechBlocks app in their homes. “It has been really exciting to see how we can incorporate families into the literacy learning process with our tools,” she says. The group is also researching the literacy learning process and creating new apps that go beyond a focus on learning and using individual words to emphasizing the importance of storytelling and self-expression to encourage literacy.

    Kathryn Lett, an EL teacher with Kentwood Public Schools in Michigan, says the school held its second annual Parade of Nations, where “students proudly waved their country’s flag while their nation’s anthem and classmates’ cheers played in the background.” After the parade, her school held a multicultural night and each class prepared presentations, games, and decor that focused on a country belonging to one of the classmates. “It was amazing to see my school come together for one common goal: to celebrate diversity as our strength and to eradicate the idea that differences equal deficits,” says Lett, who also serves on the board of the West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center. Lett also began developing a literacy initiative to better equip non-English-speaking parents with helping their children learn to read. Parents will be provided with reading comprehension questions in their native languages so that they can provide literacy support in the home. 

    The LitPick Student Book Reviews program continues to grow, attracting even more students to write reviews for the website, says administrator Tynea Lewis, who is based in Pennsylvania. Some students have turned their written reviews into animated videos that are shown on the organization’s YouTube channel. She also has been volunteering as a judge for the Story Monsters LLC’s Dragonfly Book Awards. She adds, “I have completed a few children’s poetry manuscripts and am currently working on a larger project for an adult audience.”

    Sean T. Lynch, English department head for the Commonwealth Academy for Inner City Scholars in Massachusetts, is taking the gaming model he developed to help with reading skills and developing it into other areas that involve game-based teaching practices and student-directed learning. He is creating an experimental curriculum for the ELA classroom that uses narrative and text-based cell phone apps to get kids hooked. “I used the app ‘A Normal Lost Phone’ to great success in class,” he says. “It got students reading, instructed on social justice, and produced thoughtful responses. It turns out that I was misguided in my technophobia...the future of education I now believe is games and gaming.”

    Aarti Naik, founder of SAKHI for Girls’ Education in Mumbai, India, says her group has continued to expand its Girls Book Bank project, in which adolescent girls from SAKHI become “Reading Leaders” for their neighborhood. Each Sunday, they go door-to-door to give books to 20 girls and gather them together in fun activities to inspire reading, improve vocabulary, and build confidence. They also receive a monthly educational scholarship for their work. This spring, Naik was recognized for her work in the education category of the Femina Women Awards 2017.

    Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum was pleased to report that her Accra, Ghana-based publishing company, African Bureau Stories, has produced its first books: two picture books and two early chapter books created by talented writers and illustrators from Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria to reflect the worlds of their young readers. “I’m launching a Ghana Corporates for Literacy project to partner with companies to place brand new, culturally relevant storybooks into the hands of children across Ghana, one classroom at a time,” she says.

    Ekaterina Popova, educator and researcher in Moscow, Russia, has been busy as secretary of the Reading Association of Russia with attracting new members. She helped launch a new e-mail-based digest that outlines best practices in reading and literacy, the Association’s research results, and new opportunities for members. In addition to developing a survey and processing data from the group’s longitudinal “Reading That Unites Us” research project (featured in the May/June 2017 issue of Literacy Today), she helped design a new project with colleagues called “Dialogue of Generations: Reading, Communication, and Social Behaviour.” The mission is to search for books and movies to create a unifying cultural platform that is significant for several generations.

    Matt Presser, formerly a teacher and coach at King-Robinson Inter-District Magnet School in Connecticut and now a doctoral student at Harvard University, designed a pen pal project between incarcerated teenagers and tenth graders he was working with in Boston. “My students were concerned about the effects of mass incarceration and wrote back and forth with incarcerated teens to understand their experiences,” he reports. “Their correspondence project had deep impact. It inspired my students to write to Boston Public Schools officials with recommended alternatives to suspension and to New York City teenagers to encourage them to lobby their state legislators about the Raise the Age legislation that their state was considering.” Presser is a 2017 recipient of Harvard’s Presidential Public Service Fellowship.

    Kelly Taylor, a teacher at Peel Language Development School in Perth, Australia, recently embarked on an action research project to collect evidence around using the arts as a pedagogical approach to teaching literacy in a special education context. “Specifically, I’m looking at how all aspects of the arts can be used to elicit and extend students’ vocabulary,” she says. She hopes the study will contribute to existing evidence that all students, regardless of their abilities and challenges, should be entitled to a learning environment rich in the arts to enhance their education. As a speaker at the ILA 2017 Conference, she shared strategies for empowering students with language delays.

    Arcadia Elementary School literacy coach Melissa Wells reports that she and her South Carolina–based school continue to focus on including family members as vital partners in students’ literacy development. The school’s library now has a Family Literacy Center that lets families check out bundles of books to read at home. In addition, Wells finished her dissertation and earned a doctorate in language and literacy from the University of South Carolina. “In the fall, I will be joining the education department faculty at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, where my focus will be on early literacy,” she says. “I am excited to be working with our newest educators as they prepare to support students as readers, writers, and thinkers in their future classrooms.” Wells also presented her dissertation research at ILA 2017.

    For more information on the entire 2016 class of 30 Under 30 honorees, as well as the 2015 list, visit literacyworldwide.org/30under30.

    Do you know an educator or literacy advocate making an extraordinary impact in the lives of students and others in their community? Nominations for the next 30 Under 30 list, to be published in January 2019, are open. Submissions must be received by June 1, 2018. For more information, visit literacyworldwide.org/30under30.

    Maura CiccarelliMaura C. Ciccarelli is a freelance writer specializing in education and nonprofits as well as a wide variety of other topics.


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