What's Hot in Literacy - Get the Details for 2020

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The International Literacy Association (ILA) recently released their research of what's hot in literacy. I've included the infographic if you want a quick glance , but if you'd like to know more  details and how it might apply to you and your teaching, read on!
I will paraphrase at times but also, it will make sense to directly quote the report at other times. The full report can be downloaded here.

ILA infographic on main points of survey

The 5 Most Critical Issues in Literacy Education

According to more than 1,400 respondents they are:
1. Building early literacy skills through a balanced approach combining both foundational and language comprehension instruction (51%)
2.  Determining effective instructional strategies for struggling readers (42%) 
 3. Increasing equity and opportunity for all (40%)
4. Increasing PD opportunities for educators (39%)
5. Providing access to high-quality, diverse books and content (36%) (honestly I think this will be much higher when ILA completes this year's survey)

Let's break these each down briefly...

Building Early Literacy Skills Through a Balanced Approach 

Most say a that a "balanced approach that combines both foundational and language comprehension instruction is among the most critical topics for improving literacy outcomes in the next decade". "When it comes to explicit and systematic phonics instruction, only 32% say it is among the most critical topics. And respondents are split in how much attention the topic is given, with 31% saying we should be paying more attention to phonics instruction and another 24% saying it already gets too much".  So it seems a balanced approach is important in educator's eyes but some feel explicit and systematic phonics gets too much attention and some feel it does not get enough attention.

Determining Effective Instructional Strategies for Struggling Readers 

Half of the respondents stated that professional development is important to help them determine the best strategies for students with literacy challenges. 

Increasing Equity and Opportunity for All Learners 

Students feel all readers need improved access to rich reading materials, and 40% say "making time for student-selected independent reading during the school day is the best way to help all students grow into strong readers".

Increasing Professional Learning and Development Opportunities for Practicing Educators 

These were the top 5 areas in which teachers wanted these areas to be addressed with professional development: 
1. Using digital resources to support literacy instruction
2. Supporting social emotional learning
3. Writing instruction
4. Addressing issues of social justice
5. Teaching vocabulary 

Providing Access to High-Quality, Diverse Books and Content 

A researcher was quoted in the report as saying "We must share many diverse stories and help prevent stereotypes and future generations [from inheriting] bias."  

The Greatest Barrier to Equity in Literacy Education

 Firstly, the number one area in which teachers want support is in addressing equity. "This may be because 60% of respondents felt that teacher preparation programs and colleges/universities are not sufficiently preparing new teachers for the reality of teaching in 2020". Many people agreed that "variability of teacher knowledge and effectiveness is the greatest barrier" to making progress to a place of equity. 

Additionally, survey takers felt that excellent teaching begins with quality teacher preparation programs, but it must be "sustained by research and lifelong learning. From the perspective of respondents, more work needs to be done to...  prepare teachers for the rigorous challenges they will face in the classroom ...."

How Important is Research?

The short answer? VERY.  The long answer: "Respondents place high value on the role of research in literacy instruction and say they would like more support in staying current on the latest findings." Can you understand that? Even as an ILA member myself it is tough to stay abreast with everything going on with literacy research, but half  or more of educators said that staying current is an important responsibility of literacy educators; however, "Nearly half of all respondents—44%—say that staying abreast of the latest literacy research is an area in which they need more support. When it comes to who should provide that assistance, several avenues are cited." 

Literacy is a Human Right

Respondents felt that literacy must be protected. and was a basic human right. Many stated FREE preschool was important in today's day and age. Personally, I never attended preschool myself, but my mom was a teacher and did a lot with me. With that being said; however, I am not sure that with the demands  of 2020's kindergarten curriculums, children can not afford to not attend preschool. What do you think?

Professional Development Needs

What are the professional development needs of today's literacy educators? Almost half of responded stated they want more PD on using digital resources to support literacy instruction. HOW prescient is that? I am sure the answer is going to be much higher for next year.


Unsurprisingly to any of us who currently teaching,  "addressing disconnects between school curriculum and students’ actual needs in terms of literacy support and instruction is the No. 1 greatest challenge in literacy reported by respondents". Additional, supporting students in the areas of SEL and behavior is very important as is supporting students who are struggling in reading. Teachers at my school say they and students all feel overwhelmed and pulled in many directions. Which do you do first or prioritize:  the new social studies standards, students who need social/emotional support, intervene with students who are below level in math, reading, and/or writing, or teach the zones of regulation??

That is the summary of what's hot in literacy for 2020 according to the ILA research completed in 2019. Do you think it hit the nail on the head? Did survey respondents miss anything important?

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