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    Advancing Literacy: My Journey on ILA’s Board of Directors

    By Kenneth Kunz
     | Nov 15, 2023
    Kunz at Little Free Library

    In an educational landscape teeming with opportunities to make a difference, some moments stand out as truly transformative. That moment for me was when I received the invitation to join the Board of Directors for ILA. This opportunity filled me with both excitement and a sense of joy, as I knew that the work of this organization was dedicated to changing lives through advancing literacy.

    This is a reflection of my journey, which I believe is a testament to the enduring impact of literacy and the tireless efforts of those who commit themselves to ensuring that every individual, regardless of their circumstances, has the opportunity to unlock the world through the pages of a book. I want to share my experiences, challenges, and lessons learned from my service on the ILA Board of Directors in the hope that new and longtime members alike might be inspired to serve and lead.

    The Board’s role in ILA

    The board plays a pivotal role in guiding ILA’s mission and initiatives. What does this look like behind the scenes? Members and affiliates of our network should know that the board is

    • Composed of passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds (elected by you!) helping to guide the organization. ILA Board members serve on a voluntary basis. We do this work because we are passionate about it.
    • A collective voice. Reflecting back now on six years of Board service (transitioning from a three-year term as a member-at-large to the three-year officer cycle: vice president to president to immediate past president, my current role), I am proud of how Board and staff have worked to position ILA for a stronger future.
    • Engaged in collaborative service. This high level of collaboration has led to the latest strategic planning, fundraising, and program development. It is also a great way to network and leverage your connections in meaningful ways.
    • Always meeting regularly. Through monthly meetings (weekly at the leadership level) and committee work, we set the vision and direction of ILA, ensuring that our programs reach those who need them the most.
    • Prioritizing fiscal responsibility. We do all this with an eye on fiscal responsibility during these ever-changing and often economically challenging times.

    With a shared commitment to improving literacy and access to education, the Board works tirelessly to make informed decisions that empower our communities, support educators and, most important, provide individuals of all ages the opportunity to unlock their potential through literacy.

    How the Board guides ILA

    The Board's guidance is the compass that steers the organization toward a brighter future. Through strategic planning and thoughtful deliberation, we chart the course for ILA, setting clear goals and priorities.

    We review and approve budgets, ensuring the efficient allocation of resources to fulfill our mission.

    By leveraging our collective expertise, we stay attuned to emerging trends and educational needs, adapting our programs and strategies to remain effective and relevant.

    This collaborative decision-making process not only safeguards ILA’s sustainability but also fosters an environment where innovation and creativity flourish, enabling us to make a lasting impact in the realm of education and literacy.

    Most important, we listen to our global network of members and serve as elected representatives of the membership at large. We love our members, and your opinions matter!

    The benefits of Board service

    By now, you may be wondering what the benefits of serving ILA are, given the responsibilities. First and foremost, serving on the Board of a leading global literacy organization is a rewarding endeavor that brings about numerous personal and professional benefits, such as the opportunity to

    • Contribute your expertise. Whether you are a teacher-educator, administrator, classroom teacher, or education advocate, you have opportunities to play a pivotal role in shaping and carrying out ILA’s mission and initiatives. The use of your knowledge further increases your expertise.
    • Network. As I look back on my six years of service, I cannot express enough gratitude in words about the quality connections I have made. Many of you in the ILA community have become personal friends. ILA’s member survey shows members value networking as a top priority, and leadership roles like Board service are some of the best opportunities available to network far and wide.
    • Become a more skillful leader. In addition to learning more about literacy, Board members also gain experience in areas such as leadership, governance, strategic planning, fundraising, and financial oversight. The experience of serving on the ILA Board can also lead to personal growth and understanding; Board members are challenged to think critically, manage conflicts, and advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
    • Become a respected leader. ILA’s Board members are often recognized and respected in their school communities for their commitment to a worthwhile mission and access to reputable research-to-practice resources.

    I would like to give a special thank-you to the hardworking ILA Board (both past and present), ILA staff (dedicated and multitalented in so many ways), and members near and far (the heartbeat of our organization). Thank you for trusting me with leading ILA over these last few years.

    For those of you contemplating service: You already have what it takes when it comes to the determination and passion for making a profound and lasting impact on the lives of others. Are you ready to trailblaze as an ILA leader?

    Find out more about the official duties of the ILA Board or submit a nomination—for a colleague or yourself. The deadline for nominations for the 2024 elections is December 21, 2023.

    Kenneth Kunz is the immediate past president of ILA.

    Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in blog posts on this website are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of ILA. We have taken reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in blog posts but do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of such information.

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    ILA Offers Guidelines for Integrating Digital Technologies Into Early Literacy Education

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Apr 23, 2019

    Although digital technologies are widely per­vasive in homes, schools, and communities, there remains little consensus about how they should be used in early childhood literacy education. A new brief released by the International Literacy Association (ILA), Digital Resources in Early Childhood Literacy Development, seeks to create a set of common guidelines for evaluating screen time.

    As the meaning of reading and writing continues to evolve, there is an urgent need to “link play and literacy to the multimodal opportunities offered by new digital media,” says ILA.

    “The wealth of often conflicting information around the use of digital tools in literacy instruction has only led to more confusion and has stirred valid concerns regarding quality, safety, and overconsumption,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Drawing on the latest research and with these concerns in mind, we created a formula for balanced technology integration.”

    The brief highlights the social and academic benefits of high-quality digital technologies, such as stronger pathways for language learning, multimodal meaning making, and home–school connections. ILA maintains that—when judiciously selected and intentionally used—digital texts and tools can build children’s literacy and communication skills while preparing them for long-term academic success.

    ILA offers four guidelines for making decisions about how best to integrate digital technologies into early childhood contexts, including blending the use of digital and nondigital resources and building home–school connections, with concrete steps for accomplishing each, such as acting as media mentors for caregivers who may not be aware of quality interactive media resources.

    Access the full brief here.

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

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    ILA Highlights Benefits of Reading Practice and Volume

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jan 31, 2019

    In an era of technological distractions, instilling a love of reading in students has become increasingly difficult for teachers. The solution, according to a new brief from the International Literacy Association (ILA), is deceptively simple: Give students control over their reading lives through independent reading.

    In Creating Passionate Readers Through Independent Reading, the organization draws on research that demonstrates how independent reading builds student competence, confidence, and joy.

    “We have decades of studies proving the power of independent reading,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “It’s why we advocate for independent reading that is truly independent.”

    Post describes independent reading as an activity driven by student selection and motivation that’s free from assessment and accountability, but not support. ILA’s definition of independent reading includes the important role teachers play in the practice, such as offering suggestions about text selection based on students' self-identified interests, initiating conversations with students about what they’re reading, and facilitating similar discussions among peer groups.

    To heighten reading motivation, ILA recommends that educators not only ensure choice, but also provide texts that reflect topics of interest and stories that are representative of all students in the classroom and beyond. An added benefit? Diverse and inclusive classroom libraries help foster a love of reading.

    Due to increased emphasis on test preparation, assigned reading, and other curricular requirements, many teachers struggle to carve out time for quality independent reading. But, as ILA points out, when independent reading isn’t prioritized or encouraged in the classroom, students miss out on important benefits, such as improved reading stamina, vocabulary, and background knowledge.

    Additionally, teachers lack valuable opportunities to coach, instruct, provide feedback, and assess the effectiveness of independent reading.

    The brief includes a list of takeaways to help educators boost student interest in and engagement with books.

    Access the full text here.

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

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    How Our Teaching Can, and Must, Honor Our Students' Rights to Read

    By Jennifer Serravallo
     | Oct 17, 2018
    Honoring Students' Rights to Read

    ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read gives me teacher goosebumps. And this is why:

    Children walk into our classrooms with all of themselves. They are the sum of their experiences and their expectations. We cannot ask them to leave any part of themselves at the door when the bell rings. Rather, we must embrace their entirety.

    So, how can we do this as reading teachers?

    We can carve out time every day for them to read (Right 1). And not just time, but a high volume of uninterrupted time (Right 7). We can curate a classroom library from which they are free to browse and select titles (Right 2).

    We can reveal to them what to watch for in the books they choose so they can deepen their comprehension, better understand the content, and have their own thoughts and interpretations about what they read. Comprehension helps make the reading experience enjoyable and fully realized (Right 5).

    As reading teachers, we know how important it is to do more than focus on the book; we have to focus on our readers. We talk to our students, we seek to understand them and their interests, passions, and reading histories. We make sure our classroom and school libraries are not only a mirror of their lives and identities, but also a window into parts of the world they have not yet ventured (Rights 3 and 4).

    Reading is social and thus we must give students the chance to recommend titles, react to their reading by talking with friends, and talk about how they’re living differently because of the things they have read (Right 8).

    When students talk to us, they should know that we are helping them read any book better, not just the one book they have in their hands in the moment we confer with them (Right 6). Speaking of conferring, we must give students our individual time and attention as we guide them toward stronger reading habits and skills.

    And what is the point of reading anyway, unless it’s enjoyable? Reading helps us learn about our world so we can cultivate new thinking and share our ideas and opinions with others (Right 9). When we invest in developing our own knowledge around texts and engage as regular readers of children’s literature, we are better able to teach in a way that is generalizable book to book (Right 10).

    When our teaching is specific, clear, and transferrable, we can ensure that we are supporting our students’ reading lives well beyond the precious days we work with them in our classrooms. When we honor our students’ reading lives and tailor our instruction to meet them where they are, we are preserving not only their rights to read but also their right to lay claim to the world around them.

    The Children’s Rights to Read initiative, launched by ILA to ensure every child has access to the education, opportunities and resources needed to read, focuses on 10 rights essential for individuals to reach full personal, social and educational potential. The global campaign asserts and affirms ILA’s commitment to its mission of literacy for all and offers a framework for partnerships and action. To learn more and sign the pledge to support the Rights, visit

    Jennifer Serravallo is a literacy consultant, speaker, and the author of several popular titles including The New York Times bestselling The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers (Heinemann) and The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers (Heinemann). Her latest publication, Understanding Texts & Readers: Responsive Comprehension Instruction with Leveled Texts (Heinemann), connects comprehension goals to text levels and readers responses. Upcoming publications include A Teacher's Guide to Reading Conferences(early 2019) and Complete Comprehension, which is a revised and reimagined whole book assessment and teaching resource based on the award-winning Independent Reading Assessment (due in spring 2019). She was a senior staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and taught in Title I schools in New York City. Tweet her @jserravallo.

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    ILA Advocates for Student-Centered Model of Data Collection and Interpretation

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Oct 16, 2018
    Beyond the Numbers

    Rather than being shaped by accountability policies and requirements, student learning goals and needs should be the driving force behind what data are collected and how they are used.

    When centered on students’ unique needs, data can serve as a portrait, a highlighter, and a springboard to enhance student learning and inform instructional decision making, according to ILA’s latest brief, Beyond the Numbers: Using Data for Instructional Decision Making.

    Educators should view students as key sources of their own learning data, asserts ILA.

    “We’re moving away from the idea that data equal obligatory test scores and percentages,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “The most powerful sources of data are the unique experiences students have in the classroom.”

    Snapshot data, such as test scores, are often used incorrectly to categorize or label students by their abilities, according to ILA. Data should include a wide range of information, such as formative assessments, student engagement observations, student oral responses, and knowledge of students’ backgrounds, to provide a fuller portrait of students’ strengths and needed areas of support.

    Examining discrepancies and patterns across multiple forms of data can illuminate equity concerns and allow for a more truthful picture of student learning. When analysis leads to uncertainty about next steps or solutions, data act as a springboard, prompting further inquiry and investigation.

    The brief concludes with five actionable steps for using data to support instructional improvements.

    Access the full brief here.

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

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