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    Leading ILA Journal Launches Podcast

    By Bailee Formon
     | Apr 10, 2019

    rrq-podcastAlthough there are numerous resources available to help educators find new tools and strategies to use in their classrooms, translating these resources into practice is not always easy. For this reason, the editors of ILA’s Reading Research Quarterly (RRQ), Amanda Goodwin, an assistant professor in language, literacy, and culture at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and Robert T. Jiménez, professor in ELL and literacy education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, recently created two platforms to make new information more accessible to educators.

    A new podcast, Bridge Research to Practice: Live With the Author, and Facebook group support ILA’s mission to deepen understandings in ways that impact research and practice.

    Bridging research to practice

    Launched in January, Bridge Research to Practice: Live With the Author features in-depth interviews with authors of key RRQ pieces. Literacy thought leaders dive deep into their background, how they became interested in their article topic, and their RRQ study. The interviews culminate with important takeaways as well as tangible steps that educators can take to make positive changes in their own classrooms.

    Goodwin says they chose podcasts as the medium because episodes can be accessed anytime, anywhere—making them a convenient option for a time-strapped audience. As fellow educators, Goodwin and Jiménez understand that the standard school schedule allows little time for teachers to engage in professional learning. Podcasts—which can be played via smart phone, computer, or smart speakers such as Alexa—allow listeners to get personalized professional development while driving or cooking dinner.

    The editors choose recent RRQ articles that present meaningful, relevant information so educators who follow the discussions can not only use the information presented by the researcher but also initiate conversations on the basis of on their own understanding. So far, they have interviewed authors on topics such as the impact of vocabulary intervention, second-language reading difficulties, and evaluating the credibility of online science information.

    Goodwin says she hopes the podcast will be an effective tool to reach new audiences and “convey research findings in a real way to help make an impact in classrooms, homes, and schools.” 

    “[We are] making the effort to bridge research to practice,” she says.

    Authors of our own experiences

    Another way to encourage discussion around these research findings is through the group’s new Facebook page, open to RRQ subscribers and nonsubscribers, where the editors highlight excerpts and takeaways from recent articles to help educators better digest the information and apply it to different contexts. The editors also post outside articles, questions, and discussion starters so members of the community can deepen their knowledge as well as share new information with peers.

    Goodwin describes the RRQ Facebook page as a platform for collaborative learning and conversation. Using hashtags such as #MeetTheResearchMonday, #TalkAboutItTuesday#WhatDoYouThinkWednesday, #TheoryToPracticeThursday, #FindOutMoreFriday, the editors facilitate dialogue around important topics and encourage members to build connections, exchange ideas, and share their own experiences.

    Goodwin says the space “let’s all of us be authors of our own experiences.”

    A growing community

    Although these new platforms have created opportunities for learning and discussion among teachers and educators, there is still room for growth. The next step is for RRQ readers and podcast listeners to bring these conversations to their schools, districts, and communities.

    Spreading the word about these resources can help to further grow this community and extend the reach of research. This network is for the benefit of students everywhere because, according to Goodwin, “What’s the point if you don’t change the lives of children?”

    Bailee Formon is an intern at the International Literacy Association.  

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    Access to Literacy: An Inalienable Right to Quality Education

    By Anasthasie N. Liberiste-Osirus
     | Apr 03, 2019

    Within the world of international education, there are more than 175 million children unable to read. In Latin America alone—in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Nicaragua, and Haiti—the national literacy average is below 80% countrywide. When looking specifically at Haiti, there is a 49% literacy rate, which makes it the lowest in the western hemisphere and the 12th lowest globally.

    Such numbers are shocking and call for a global paradigm shift centered on access interventions that support a culture of literacy.

    The issue at large

    Students everywhere have an inalienable right to quality education and literacy resources, but they are being denied this right because of systemic variables that are far too great to maneuver alone.

    Because of the generational and situational poverty within rural communities in Haiti, many children are subjected to toxic stressors as well as lack of available print and the foundational skills necessary to achieve academically. Yet reading is one of the core foundational skills needed for academic and economical success in modern society. Reading allows one to discover unfamiliar realms, provides exposure to vocabulary, develops positive self-image, invites creativity, and navigates the vehicle of change when one is forced to endure difficult situations.

    You see, starting the academic race late can have larger critical implications for societal growth in the long run. Research has shown us that a country's success in national academic assessments, such as in reading and math, can account for more than 70% of that country's economic growth. In countries such as Haiti, with large disparities in the acquisition of reading and writing skills, this link is daunting when considering national assessment results that reveal incoming third graders' zero fluency rate in either Haitian Creole or French.

    So what can be done to mitigate this harsh reality?

    Children's Rights to Read

    The work we do at the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) in Haiti program at the University of Notre Dame aims to address these issues. The ACE program strengthens underresourced schools through leadership, research, and professional service, with programs in place across the United States, as well as in Ireland, Chile, and Haiti.

    In Haiti, expanding access is one of the pillars of the program, which began as a way to help rebuild schools across the country following the devastating 2010 earthquake.

    Our mission is supported by the framework of ILA's recently launched Children's Rights to Read initiative. Composed of 10 fundamental rights ILA asserts every child deserves, the campaign aims to activate educators around the world to ensure every child, everywhere, receives access to the education, opportunities, and resources needed to read.

    This campaign shines a poignant spotlight on the current global literacy crisis.

    Among the rights

    •  Children have the right to access text in print and digital formats.
    • Children have the right to read for pleasure.
    • Children have the right to supportive reading environments with knowledgeable literacy partners.
    • Children have the right to read as a springboard for other forms of communication, such as writing, speaking, and visually representing.
    • Children have the right to benefit from the financial and material resources of governments, agencies, and organizations that support reading and reading instruction.

    Our intervention efforts in Haiti begin with access. Children must be afforded the opportunity to reflect on life's possibilities, and they can do this through high-quality resources such as books.

    There has been a series of interventions around increasing the level of access to books in countries such as Haiti. With many parents having fewer than three books in their homes and schools having minimal access to supplementary books in the classroom, the need to increase a modal response is vital.

    Organizations such as Libraries Without Borders, Library For All, and World Readers, to name a few, have made a ripple effect in the basin of illiteracy in Haiti. The University of Notre Dame's ACE program has also become innovative in its approach to literacy intervention by providing classroom libraries within its supported schools.

    We partner with local organizations to implement literacy interventions that deliver a scripted literacy program, teacher training, supportive coaching, quality resources, and leveled texts within the classroom. The goal is to support emergent readers, strengthen teaching pedagogy, and link community and school, all while increasing access.

    Anecdotal reports from students and teachers clearly demonstrate that they welcome having access to books in their mother tongue of Haitian Creole as well as the language of instruction, French. Students find reading sessions meaningful as they can practice reading all while extending oral vocabulary in Haitian Creole and French.

    Teachers participate in read-aloud sessions that provide students with the occasion to be reflective while thinking critically. The classroom libraries provide manipulatives such as phonics dominoes and vocabulary bingo. Teachers are also trained on the importance of increasing print in the classroom as well as how to set up and use Haitian Creole and French interactive word walls.

    One step at a time

    Though the establishment of schoolwide libraries is ideal for supplementing reading materials, it is not always a feasible option because of the financial constraints of many schools. However, it is important to remember that the battle to shift the axis of access must start small. Our efforts can be building blocks toward larger interventions.

    ILA's Children's Rights to Read initiative is the constant reminder we need that education for all is possible—­one building block at a time.

    Anasthasie N. Liberiste-­Osirus, an ILA member since 2011, is the associate director of the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education in Haiti program.

    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of 
    Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    ILA 2019 Board Election Opens

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Mar 27, 2019

    BoardElection_w300The International Literacy Association (ILA) has commenced its annual election for its Board of Directors. Eligible ILA members are encouraged to vote for three at-large candidates and one vice president candidate. You can read about the candidates here.

    The ILA 2019 Board Election will be conducted entirely online. Individual ILA members with an active membership and a valid e-mail address will receive email reminders with a link to the online ballot. Eligible ILA members who do not have valid email addresses will receive instructions by mail for how they can vote online.

    If you haven’t received your email ballot, please confirm your membership is in good standing and that the email address connected to your membership is accurate by signing into your membership account or by phoning ILA’s Constituent Services Team at 800.336.7323 (U.S. and Canada) or 302.731.1600 (all other countries). 

    For assistance signing into your ILA membership account, please contact Andrew Arbitell, account manager for Intelliscan,

    The newly elected Board members will begin their terms on July 1, 2019.

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

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    Launchpads to Literacy

    By Diana Sharp and Megan Diaz
     | Mar 15, 2019
    launchpads-literacyWhen you think of community organizations that support literacy, what comes to mind? The library, certainly. But what about zoos and aquariums? Or science museums and performing arts centers? Or the city parks department? These organizations and more have been key partners for Explorers Club, a community-wide summer program for preschoolers and their families operating in Tampa, FL's lowest income neighborhood since 2014.

    Through this program, children and their families are not only given free access to these area cultural venues during the summer, but also are engaged in meaningful literacy activities to bring them together as a family, connect them with local resources, and help ensure they are ready for kindergarten.

    How we began

    In 2012, the YMCA and Champions for Children, a nonprofit provider of family education and child abuse prevention programs in the Tampa Bay region, opened a community learning center called Layla's House in the heart of the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. Approximately 40% of Sulphur Springs residents live below the poverty line, close to double the overall poverty rate of Tampa. Layla's House wanted to offer something special in the summer for families of children ages 0- 5.

    At the same time, literacy researchers at RMC Research Corporation were looking for a partner interested in creating a program for supporting the oral language and vocabulary growth of preschool children from economically disadvantaged homes. When the two organizations came together, the adventures began.

    Together, we approached the educational directors at different cultural venues in Tampa. We explained how "school readiness" meant more than knowing numbers and letters. We described research about how oral language and vocabulary need to be strengthened early, and how these skills are key to literacy success in kindergarten and beyond. We also described the important role of building children's knowledge and interests around rich topics such as zoo animals, sea creatures, outer space, and even children's own neighborhoods, so that families could have extended conversations and read more about whatever their children found most fascinating.

    We called the approach Fascinate Forward: looking for things that fascinate a child, then using that fascination to move learning forward. The cultural organizations responded generously and enthusiastically, and Explorers Club was born.

    Visits to the cultural venues are the highlights of Explorers Club activities, but the real power comes from wrapping each visit with layers of fun, intentional learning support. Families meet at Layla's House two mornings a week for activities themed to the places they will visit. Each learning theme takes place over two weeks. The activities at the community center include music and dance, storytimes, crafts, and learning centers, with a heavy emphasis on helping families talk with their children in ways that will support children's learning about each theme before, during, and after the venue visits.

    For most of the venue trips, families have complete flexibility regarding when they will visit. The family members are the primary learning facilitators during the trips, using what they learned at Layla's House to engage their children in conversations about what they see. The partnership with the venues has grown over the years. In addition to providing free tickets, venue staff come to Layla's House, bringing interactive presentations and intriguing items-including live animals.

    This past year, venue staff began lending Layla's House sets of items for a Curiosity Table that was added to the learning centers. For example, the zoo and aquarium lent us real and replica samples of hair, bones, teeth, eggs, feathers-even a tarantula exoskeleton. At the Curiosity Table, children and their families can see, touch, and learn about the items, guided by a university student volunteer.

    Diana Sharp, an ILA member since 1993, is a cognitive psychologist and literacy activist in the Tampa Bay area. working as a senior research associate at RMC Research Corporation.

    Megan Diaz is an undergraduate at the University of South Florida and will be pursuing a masters in speech language pathology.

    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    ILA Launches Equity Scholarship for New Orleans–Area Teachers to Attend ILA 2019 Conference

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Mar 12, 2019
    ila2019-equity-scholarshipThe International Literacy Association (ILA) is offering scholarships to the organization’s 2019 conference, taking place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center October 10–13 in New Orleans, LA. The program is open solely to educators who live within 100 miles of the location.

    The ILA 2019 Conference will attract thousands of literacy educators, professionals, and advocates from around the world. This is not the first time New Orleans has welcomed the organization (formerly the International Reading Association), who selected the city as the location for their 2014 conference.

    Each equity scholarship includes a complimentary two-day registration and a stipend for related expenses. Recipients will have opportunities to attend sessions that are peer reviewed and rooted in research; explore innovative products and meet their favorite authors in the Exhibit Hall; and build valuable connections in their own backyard.

    Location isn’t the only determining factor. To qualify, applicants must demonstrate experience, dedication, and need. Priority will be given to those working in underserved populations.

    Scholarship recipients must agree to share the knowledge gained at the conference with their colleagues. By requiring this, ILA hopes to extend the impact from a single attendee to an entire community of practice.

    “Teachers, and especially those working in underserved districts, often face insurmountable obstacles to professional development,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “This new initiative supports ILA’s commitment to equity and access.”

    The application period will be open March 12–April 30, and submissions will be evaluated by a panel of member volunteers.

    To learn more, visit

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