• Home
  • Posts
  • What has changed in literacy education since ILA 1990?

In 1990, I attended my first International Reading (now Literacy) Association conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was a newly-minted intermediate grade, elementary school teacher working on my M.Ed Degree in Reading Education at Arizona State University. The thrill of hearing so many of the featured speakers, whose books I had been reading in my courses, cannot be exaggerated. I attended sessions with renowned literacy educators like Frank Smith, Ken Goodman, and P. David Pearson, and interactive sessions with children’s authors like Robert Munsch and Tomie DePaola. I was the proverbial kid in a candy store.

Listen to Dr. Serafini discuss authentic literacy tasks and writing about reading in our myView author video series

Flash forward almost thirty years, and I am attending the ILA Conference in New Orleans this October, but my excitement is still palpable. These days, I am in a different stage in my career. I spend most of my time conducting research, teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, and working closely with doctoral students and colleagues on issues related to children’s literature, reading comprehension, multimodality, and new literacies. I also spend time consulting on various topics in literacy education where I have focused most of my scholarly research, and writing.

Read Dr. Serafini’s Research Into Practice article on Book Discussions

Over the past thirty or so years, I have come to believe that many things have changed in literacy education, and that many things have stayed the same. Some of the things that remain constant are the importance and impact of highly qualified teachers, the need for readers to have choice in what they read, the need for providing extended amounts of time for developing readers to read, the need for effective instructional approaches to reach all children at their individual points of need, and the importance of teachers being readers themselves, as well as teachers of reading.

Many things have changed since I first attended the International Reading Association conference in 1990. Many standards and reform movements have come and gone, and they have had differing amounts of impact on children and schools. The National Reading Panel, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Reading Excellence Act to name but a few. Another thing that I believe has changed, and maybe for the worse, is the amount of support and resources earmarked for local and state-wide chapters of the International Reading (Literacy) Association.

Many state-wide conferences and local support groups have shut down due to lack of funding or continued support. Unfortunately, it seems many teachers have opted out of the range of professional organizations available these days. I see this in my university classes and at the professional development workshops I conduct. It is a shame that many teachers have stopped reading The Reading Teacher, Language Arts, and other professional journals in literacy education. In 1990, these journals were my primary life-lines to the most current information in the field of literacy education.

The research and scholarly pursuits that interest me the most at this point in my career and provided the foundation for most of my professional books, is trying to find the most effective ways to talk with children about books and other texts in and out of school settings. I am most interested in the interactions among children, teachers, and guardians that get books in the hands of children, awaken children’s desire to read, create time and spaces for children to engage in the act of reading, and facilitate quality discussions with developing readers about a wide variety of texts.

As things change, so too they stay the same. At its most basic level, it’s still about getting interesting books and other texts into the hands of children that make them want to read and talk about what they have experienced and learned. How we do this may have changed, but the goal, for me, remains unchanged.

Meet Dr. Frank Serafini at 1:00PM CDT in booth #819 on Friday 10/11 and Saturday 10/12 at the International Literacy Association conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Share This

Frank Serafini

Frank Serafini

Professor of Literacy Education and Children’s Literature

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.