ILA’s 2017 “What’s Hot in Literacy Report”

I have been a member of the International Literacy (formerly Reading) Association (ILA) since the late ‘90s. As a school librarian and school librarian educator now consultant, I believe it is important for school librarians to “reach across the aisle” to read the publications our classroom teacher colleagues and administrators are reading. This helps us engage in conversations about this information while we stay abreast with issues in the larger education arena.

For the past twenty years, ILA has been conducting an annual survey and publishing the “What’s Hot in Literacy Report.” The goal of the survey is to rank literacy-related topics in terms of what’s hot (talked about) and what (should be) important at both the community and country levels. You can access the 2017 “What’s Hot in Literacy Report” and read a summary of the report posted 1/11/17 by April Hall on the ILA blog.

This year 1,600 respondents from 89 countries responded to the survey. There are many take-aways from this year’s survey that should be of particular interest to school librarians. These are just some of the highlights.

It is no surprise that assessment and standards are the #1 hot topics, but survey respondents feel these topics are not as important as the attention they are getting. They rank #10 at the country level and #12 at the community level. While there is no doubt in my mind that school librarians must gather student learning outcomes data that reflects the effectiveness of our teaching/coteaching, we want to continue to measure the impact of our school library programs in other terms as well.

Some of the assessment questions we might want to answer:

1.    Are students, faculty, administrators, and parents involved in planning, managing, and promoting the school library program, including literacy events and teaching activities?
2.    Do visitors to our library make positive remarks regarding the activities, displays, and learning engagements taking place?
3.    How many successful inquiry learning units have we coplanned and cotaught this month/semester/year, and how do students and colleagues talk about these experiences?
4.    How often does our principal make remarks in faculty, PTA, and school board meetings and other communications related to the work of the school librarian and the role of the school library program?

Another area that I think should be of interest to school librarians is early literacy. In the survey, it is both hot and important. 80% of respondents at the community level and 78% of the respondents at the country level feel early literacy is very or extremely important. While some elementary school librarians serve the needs of preschool children in their community, I believe it behooves us to develop more partnerships with families, childcare centers, and non-profit agencies in order to support early childhood education and family literacy.

When I served as the school librarian at Corbett Elementary School, I provided a monthly storytime for Head Start children, teachers, and families. At Gale Elementary, our library program offered a weekly storytime for a developmental preschool that met on our school site. Still, I thought our libraries could do more. For example, in my role as a literacy coach at Van Buskirk Elementary, I collaborated with the community outreach coordinator to facilitate a weekly workshop for parents, most of whom were primary Spanish-speaking moms. They made books, personalized with characters and information related to their family culture, which they practiced reading in the workshop and could read fluently at home to their children.

The “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey” also found that parent engagement is more important than it is hot. Let’s keep thinking about how we can support family literacy in our communities.

Teacher professional learning and development were other areas that 71% of respondents believe are very or extremely important. From my perspective, homegrown, personalized learning for educators should be extremely hot and extremely important. For me, classroom-library coteaching was the most effective way to develop my own practice and influence the professional learning of others.

My ILA blog post about the report is scheduled for this Thursday, February 9. In it, I address two of the largest gaps between what is hot and what should be hot: students’ access to books and content and literacy learning in resource-limited settings. These gaps are directly related to the work of school librarians and the role of school libraries in education. (I also included an appeal for advocacy related to including school librarians in state-level Every Student Succeeds Act plans.)

I will post the link in the comments section when it goes live.

Remixed Image Credit:
Avimann. “Flame.” Morguefile.com.

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About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi taught preservice school librarians for twenty-one years, most recently as an associate professor at Texas Woman's University where she taught courses in instructional partnerships, multimedia resources and services, children’s literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles.

3 thoughts on “ILA’s 2017 “What’s Hot in Literacy Report”

  1. Thank you, Judi. I am a newer ILA member and currently a HS librarian because the elementary librarians were cut in the district where I work in NY. It’s not surprising to anyone in the field that standards and assessment is considered the #1 hot topic but that respondents believe the topic is not as important as the attention it generates. As you say, student access to independent reading is critically important as we seek to develop and grow readers. I have seen individuals and organizations respond to this need by running book drives and gathering books. However, books without the guidance of a school librarian often just sit in piles. Libraries without librarians are as effective as classrooms without teachers. We should be working to advocate for school librarians. I agree that school librarians can do more to reach out to families with younger children (and I, too, worked with community outreach when I was an elementary school librarian), but in and of itself, the work of elementary librarians is so important. Yet elementary librarian positions are being cut at an alarming rate. If you are a classroom teacher, please support the work of elementary librarians. As Judi also writes, co-teaching can be powerful for students and also for teachers who learn so much from each other. We must stand for elementary librarians because much is lost to students – and teachers – without these professionals.

    • Dear Susan, Thank you for making time to add your voice to this post. You made a strong case and urgent plea for support for the work of school librarians and role of school librarians in educating young people and supporting classroom teachers’ teaching at all instructional levels. When all stakeholders raise our voices together and follow up with action, we can transform schooling to help everyone succeed. All the best to you in your work and advocacy efforts, Judi

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