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    ILA Stands With ALA in Protecting Detained Children’s Rights to Read

    By Marcie Craig Post
     | Jun 28, 2019

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) is a global community of literacy educators and advocates with a common goal: literacy for all. It is at the heart of our Children’s Rights to Read initiative, the core tenet of which is that every child, everywhere has the basic human right to read.

    We at ILA will not tolerate the blatant disregard for the rights of the migrant children in border detention. In addition to having limited or no access to necessities such as hygiene products, sanitary living conditions, and basic health care, they are also being denied access to books, high-quality instruction, and recreational activities—all of which underscores the inhumane treatment the children are being forced to endure.

    This is why ILA stands in solidarity with the American Library Association’s (ALA) Resolution on Library Service for Children in Detention at Migrant Detention Centers in denouncing the dire conditions for minors detained on the southern border of the United States. The resolution calls on libraries and the larger literacy community to provide and share resources that support education and enrichment.

    This resolution speaks to the principles at the heart of our Children’s Rights to Read initiative: equity, access, and inclusion. We stand resolutely behind the idea that every child, everywhere, deserves these 10 rights, which include the right to access books and materials, to read texts that mirror their experiences and languages, and to read for pleasure. Furthermore, we believe that literacy educators must take responsibility for delivering on and protecting the promise inherent in these rights.

    Our work is rooted in the belief that literacy empowers. That literacy has the ability to transform lives. That being able to read represents the difference between inclusion in and exclusion from society. That it allows people to develop their potential and participate fully in their communities and society.

    We urge our network of educators to help us ensure the rights of these vulnerable members of society. Regardless of your political leanings, if you are committed to the mental health and well-being of children, you, too, must stand for ALA’s resolution and for ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read. 
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    #ILANevada: Recapping Two Days of Critical Conversations on Equity

    By Colleen Patrice Clark
     | Jun 26, 2019

    intensive-nevada-5When was your lightbulb moment?

    That was one of the first questions opening keynote speaker Sharroky Hollie asked the crowd of 500+ educators at ILA Intensive: Nevada last Friday, June 21.

    Hollie, an educator renowned for professional development on cultural responsiveness, wanted to know the moment they realized that schools were not set up to serve students equally, that they still were not even close to equity for all.

    The volume of voices rose exponentially in the high school student center of Somerset Academy-SkyPointe Campus, the host site for the event held June 21–22 in Las Vegas, NV. The attendees discussed their answers with each other after Hollie shared that for him, it was when he was a middle school teacher in Los Angeles in 1992—the year of the Rodney King riots.

    “You cannot do the work of equity if you have not had your lightbulb moment,” Hollie stressed as the conversation came back around. “One of the reasons why we’re stagnating, why we’re still talking about this after all this time, is because we have not had a collective lightbulb moment. We have not collectively said that all students are not educated equitably and our plan A is not going to work. We need a plan B.”

    His message summed up the impetus for ILA Intensive: Nevada. Focused on the theme of Equity and Access to Literacy, the Intensive was for educators looking for a network of like-minded peers and resources geared toward confronting systemic issues and improving outcomes for all students.

    In short, it was for educators looking to enact what Hollie referred to as plan B.

    He kicked off the two-day event by confronting the issues head-on: The work of responsiveness, he said, isn’t simply about “not being racist.” It’s about constantly reexamining our biases about a multitude of differences. As such, it’s not unexpected to have multiple lightbulb moments throughout your career.

    “If you are an educator, then you are on a journey to responsiveness,” Hollie said. “You are on a journey to be more understanding, more aware of, and more sensitive to the students who need you the most.”


    “Be beacons of light”

    With sessions geared toward early literacy educators, classroom teachers, specialized literacy professionals, and administrators, ILA Intensive: Nevada overflowed with ideas for either starting or continuing on that journey of responsiveness.

    Session topics ranged from early literacy practices to engage African American students to incorporating STEM literacies as a pathway toward equity, from phonics to healing-centered engagement, and from linguistically responsive teaching to preparing future teachers for inclusive practices. Multiple Friday sessions had an encore on Saturday because of the high demand and energy around them.

    And of course, there was a multitude of text suggestions in nearly every one of the 50+ sessions.

    There were ideas shared for contemporary text pairings, such as Little Women and The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano; The Grapes of Wrath and My Papi Has a Motorcycle; and The Outsiders and Dealing in Dreams. There were numerous suggestions for new culturally authentic books—Something Happened in Our Town, Delivering Justice, The Undefeated, One Last Word, They Call Me Guero, and Separate Is Never Equal, just to name a few.

    The idea of “cracking the canon” was weaved throughout both days of the Intensive, and with good reason. According to the latest statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Books Center, School of Education, University of Michigan, only 23% of books published in 2018 featured characters of color. In addition, black, Latinx, and native authors combined accounted for only 7% of new books in 2017.

    This begs the question: “Who gets to tell our stories?” asked Lilliam Rivera, the afternoon keynote on Friday.

    Rivera, a young adult author whose works include The Education of Margot Sanchez and Dealing in Dreams, focused on issues of representation during her talk.

    For example, she pointed to Pew Research Center statistics that state Latinx students accounted for 25% of the 54 million K–12 students in the United States in 2016. Yet, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, they could only see themselves in 5% of books published in 2018.

    “They crave representation,” said Rivera, who travels the country speaking to students. “They want to be the heroes in their stories…They want to see themselves.”

    She worries, though, that the word representation is used so much these days that it could lose its meaning.

    She warned against that with a quote from actress Sonia Manzano, who played Maria on Sesame Street: “I grew up wondering how I was going to contribute to a society that didn’t see me because I felt invisible.”

    That quote resonates with Rivera, who says she felt invisible in her own childhood, both in books and in her schooling, until her English teacher, Mr. Latimer, recognized her talent and encouraged her to join the high school newspaper. (Rivera would go on to be published in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times, among other publications, before becoming a YA novelist.)

    “He shined a light on something I didn’t even know I was capable of,” Rivera said—and that is what she urged the Intensive attendees to do: be guides for students and show them the path toward their future, show them what they are capable of accomplishing.

    “I feel our job as educators and authors is to be beacons of light,” Rivera said. “We are in this struggle together. Let us continue to be compassionate guides, to be open to new views and new concepts, to always be willing to see the students, the young people right in front of you, to see them and hear them and try to understand their struggles.”

    intensive-nevada-1“Why aren’t we there yet?”

    One quote overheard in the hallways of Somerset, echoing out from a session room, stood out: “If this were easy work, we would have fixed it by now.”

    That idea came up again during the Saturday morning keynote from Cornelius Minor. The staff developer for Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, a frequent speaker on equitable practices and dismantling systemic oppression, summed up the focus of his talk with a question he was asked recently by his daughter about five minutes into a recent road trip. “Why aren’t we there yet?”

    “As I was considering that question, it connected me to the work we’ve all pledged our lives to doing,” Minor said. “When we think about outcomes we want for schools, for children, for communities…I often look at our work and I ask the question, ‘Why aren’t we there yet?’”

    There are plenty of things we’ve accomplished so far on the journey, he said: We’ve initiated a movement for diverse, inclusive books. We’ve studied powerful reading, writing, listening, and speaking practices. We’ve invested in universal design for learning and culturally sustaining pedagogy. We’ve embraced understanding emotional intelligence and examining our own biases. “We’ve done all of this, and yet we’re not quite there yet,” he said.

    There are three main reasons: we’re mired in 19th-century ways of thinking about 21st-century students; we’re stuck in the belief system that things will get better “If I wait/hope”; and we tend to think some other leader will do the work for us. “That isn’t quite true,” he said. “The leader is us."

    Hope and waiting are not strategies, he added, but what is a strategy is systemic awareness.

    “It’s really easy to look at the oppression down south and really hard to see the oppression down the hall,” he said. “It’s really easy to look at the oppression in that other district and it’s really hard to look at the oppression on the other side of your classroom.”

    To initiate change, we must measure policies based on outcomes and not on intentions. Then, when looking at outcomes, we have to resist the temptation to blame stereotypes based on inherent beliefs and biases. Instead, we must examine and confront our policies, practices, and systems.

    “We cannot think about this work with intention alone,” Minor said. “We’ve got to think about the mind-sets that govern our scholastic habits and the impact that these habits and structures have on children.”

    “What happens in Vegas”

    During his breakout session Q&A on Friday, Minor reminded everyone that change starts with them, even if they don’t feel like they have a wave of support behind them.

    “You don’t need 100% buy-in to make sustainable change happen,” he said, adding that progress can start with just two allies and grow from there. “If we keep waiting until we get everybody, we’ll never get started.”

    If one thing is certain, it’s that allies and a wave of support were built at ILA Intensive: Nevada. Attendees left feeling invigorated and armed with strategies for dismantling bias in their school systems, meeting students where they are, and creating equitable learning environments.

    As ILA President of the Board Bernadette Dwyer said during the opening session—a thought repeated several times throughout the event—“What happens in Vegas, goes home with you from Vegas.”

    Colleen Patrice Clark ( is the managing editor of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

    For more highlights from ILA Intensive: Nevada, check out our archive of conversations on Twitter here.

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    Get to Know New Board Member-at-Large Laurie Sharp

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Jun 11, 2019

    get-to-know-sharp-2A member since 2004, Laurie Sharp has spent 15 years in roles of increasing responsibility and visibility at ILA—she’s attended various ILA committees; held leadership positions in two special interest groups (Professors of Literacy and Teacher Education and Specialized Literacy Professionals); served as a Board member, vice president, president-elect, and chair of ILA’s Texas chapter, the Texas Association for Literacy Education; and in July, she starts a new chapter as Board member-at-large. 

    In addition to her many contributions to ILA, Sharp is a former classroom teacher, a teacher educator, and a prolific scholar, having contributed more than 80 publications to the literacy community. She recently accepted a new role as associate professor and assistant dean of undergraduate studies for first- and second-year experience at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX.

    We spoke to Sharp about the value of professional associations, cultivating effective partnerships, and what it really means to be a literacy leader.

    On what ILA means to her

    “I’ve been an ILA member since 2004 during my enrollment as an undergraduate preservice teacher at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Donna Camp was one of my mentor professors, and she encouraged us to become involved in a professional organization. I chose ILA and have not regretted it since.

    “Throughout my entire career, both as a classroom teacher and a teacher educator, ILA is my go-to for both evidence-based research and high-quality professional learning. I’ve gained so much from going to the professional conferences each year. But most of all, ILA has given me is a valuable network of professional colleagues. I’ve made professional and personal connections with literacy professionals from all over the world. I’m so excited to give back to an organization that has given me so much.”

    On her hopes for the future of literacy education

    “One of the areas that I’ve really become attuned to is literacy leadership. Rita Bean and Diane Kern have done quite a bit of work in this area, especially for specialized literacy professionals. In today’s schools, it’s equally important that classroom teachers are literacy leaders. Classroom teachers must be equipped to advocate for all students, high-quality literacy practices, and increased support for continuous professional learning.

    “ILA has been such a strong voice for effective literacy instruction among literacy professionals. In moving forward, I see great opportunities to invite other literacy stakeholders into the fold. Cultivating strong partnerships with administrators, policymakers, community members, parents and caregivers, and so many others is a vital step to advance literacy learning and teaching.”

    On promoting ILA’s mission of literacy for all

    “In both my practice and research, equity is always a concern at the forefront of my mind. Every learner should have access to highly qualified teachers who create culturally responsive, inclusive learning spaces. However, schools are currently experiencing teacher shortages and a lack of teacher diversity. To achieve literacy for all, it is essential to recruit, develop, and retain diverse literacy professionals of the highest caliber.

    “In terms of literacy teacher education, all things are not equal. There are great differences across teacher education programs, such as size, funding, and access to diverse school contexts. ILA is well positioned to provide literacy teacher educators with the resources and support needed in their work with preparing teachers for the world of literacy.”

    On the most valuable experience she brings to the role

    “Definitely my experience as a classroom teacher. I am a teacher at heart, and I see great value in maintaining strong connections with those who are closest to students: the teachers. I really admire that ILA has embraced practitioner-oriented research within its journal publications. Essentially, practitioners can read these articles and easily say, ‘I can implement that tomorrow.’

    “It’s about staying closest to where the magic is happening, which is in the hands of teachers.”

    What most excites you about this new opportunity?

    “Everyone I’ve interacted with through ILA and the Texas Association for Literacy Educators is so passionate about literacy and committed to excellence. Through these interactions, I have learned and grown tremendously. As a Board member, I look forward to meeting many more amazing literacy professionals from all around the world to further enhance my understandings of literacy learning and teaching.

    “I have to tell you, this is really just a surreal experience. ILA has been so good to me. To be involved in professional service as a contributor and a learner is just so exciting.”

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

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    #ILAchat: Collaboration Is Key: How Principals Become Literacy Leaders

    By Colleen Clark
     | Jun 11, 2019
    JuneILAChat _Graphics_600x600

    ILA firmly believes that a thriving culture of literacy in a school relies on strong support and dedication from its principals.

    We talk a lot about why principals should be leading the charge and how their focus on literacy is critical for establishing this culture. But how do principals become literacy leaders?

    What can they do to set the tone in their school and make literacy the foundation for all learning? How can they leverage the talent and expertise of their staff and encourage horizontal leadership? And what if their background isn’t in literacy, reading, or English language arts?

    We believe the solution lies in collaboration, which is the focus of our next #ILAchat on Thursday, June 13, at 8:00 p.m. ET: Collaboration Is Key: How Principals Become Literacy Leaders.

    Our special guests for the chat include

    • Mandy Ellis, principal at Dunlap Grade School in Illinois and author of Lead With Literacy: A Pirate Leader’s Guide to Developing a Culture of Readers (Dave Burgess Consulting). She also writes regularly for her blog, A Principal’s Decree: Reflections and Realities of an Elementary School Principal.
    • Toni Faddis, principal at Chula Vista Elementary School District in California and author of The Ethical Line: 10 Leadership Strategies for Effective Decision Making (Corwin). She’s also the lead author of ILA’s latest literacy brief, “Principals as Literacy Leaders,” which was released on June 10.
    • Stephen G. Peters, superintendent of Laurens County School District 55 in South Carolina. Peters is a frequent author and presenter on school leadership. His next project is a series of five books, beginning in January 2020, with iLead: Lessons on Leadership and the Impact on Education, Schools, Teachers, Students, and Community. Just last month, Peters, a current ILA Board member, was elected to serve as the next vice president of the Board. His term begins in July.

    Follow #ILAchat and @ILAToday this Thursday to join the conversation with Ellis, Faddis, Peters, and ILA about what it takes for principals to become literacy leaders.

    Colleen Patrice Clark is the editor of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    Read to Me: A Campaign to Make Reading a Regular, Family Routine Across Croatia

    By Marina Meić
     | Jun 05, 2019
    lt366-croatia2-ldThe Croatian Reading Association (CroRa), an affiliate of the International Literacy Association, was established in 1991. Since then, CroRa has participated in many campaigns that advocate for reading and literacy. One of them—the biggest such campaign in Croatia—is Read to Me!, which started in 2013.

    Read to Me! is coorganized with the Croatian Library Association - Children and Youth Services Commission, Croatian Paediatric Society, and the Croatian Association of Researchers in Children's Literature, with support from UNICEF.
    Read to Me! aims to encourage families, caregivers, and other adults to start reading to children as soon as they are born. In that way, reading can become a part of their daily routine. It also helps create special emotional bonds. The aim of the campaign is to include all families and children and to make reading for at least 15 minutes a day a habit. 

    The campaign also aims to encourage families with young children to come 
    to their local library as soon as possible. There they will get information on early read-aloud benefits, how and when to start reading to children, lists of quality picture books, and how to choose age­-appropriate books. Picture books are typically the first contact a child has with literature and the written word in general, which is why paying special attention to the quality of picture books is so important. 

    The Read to Me! campaign sends the message that picture books should take precedence when choosing toys from the earliest age, and that families and caregivers can change the lives of their children by their own example by fostering good reading habits. In addition to the family, children's libraries, preschools, and pediatricians are viewed as key factors affecting the development  of early and family literacy. One of the campaign's aims is to encourage cooperation among libraries, kindergartens, and doctor's offices to raise awareness of their institution's important role in creating a culture of reading. 

    Over the past six years, there have been more than 1,000 events organized as part of the campaign, and more than 50,000 children have participated. The campaign has included picture book exhibitions; read-alouds in public libraries, squares, pediatrician's offices, and children's hospitals; and presentations for families about the importance of reading to children. Many activities have also involved local celebrities and well-known leaders ­including actors, singers, writers, and doctors. Stories and books have traveled in bookmobiles around the country to places where children don't have library access. 

    The first anniversary of Read to Me! was celebrated on International Children's Book Day, April 2, 2014, in the Cvrcak kindergarten, with a play in which the campaign organizers, actors, and children presented in a fun way the excellent results of 
    the campaign, which has united the whole country with the aim of making reading a daily habit for all families. Every year, the campaign continues to celebrate its birthday in a different town in Croatia. 

    Through this campaign, CroRa also celebrates International Book Giving Day each February 14 with an activity called I Read, I Give, and I'm Very Happy. People are invited to donate picture books to libraries, which then forward the books to children's hospitals, foster homes, children's SOS villages, and other charity organizations. In the last three years more than 9,000 picture books have been distributed across Croatia. 

    Thousands upon thousands of children and families have been impacted by this campaign in the past six years, and we look forward to seeing the campaign's impact continue to grow in the years to come. 

    For more information about Read to Me!, visit

    Marina Meić, a new ILA member, is a Montessori educator and vice president of the Croatian Reading Association's Split branch. She is an ILA 2019 30 Under 30 honoree. 
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