From IRRC Director Dr. Deborah K. Reed
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Iowa Reading Research Center
Monthly Email Update


Every day during the school year, literacy educators are working hard to meet the reading and writing instructional needs of every student. It is part of our mission statement as well: “At the Iowa Reading Research Center, we apply current research for the development and dissemination of best practices in literacy so that every child in Iowa will achieve reading proficiency.” Our uses of “every student/child” and “all students/children” are deliberate and meaningful for the simple reason that it would be unconscionable to pick out even one child for whom learning to read does not matter.
That is why we consider not only students as a whole, but also those in specific categories such as students in special education, students with disabilities, gifted and talented learners, racially and linguistically diverse students, and others. Without careful consideration, the particular needs of some groups can be lost in instructional planning.
One category of students that has experienced growth and evolving needs is English learner students (ELs). According to the Iowa Department of Education, during the current school year, 6.6% of students in Iowa are ELs, compared to 4.56% 10 years ago in 2011–2012. Furthermore, there are currently 21 districts in Iowa with at least 15% of the kindergarten–Grade 12 students categorized as ELs, compared to only 11 districts in 2011–2012.
In addition to the specialized instruction and interventions that teachers need to implement in the classroom when teaching ELs, practicing reading and writing in English at home can be beneficial. That’s why our blog post series, “Learning English With Your Children and Teens,” focuses on providing fun ways for caregivers to encourage English learning opportunities in their everyday lives. The activities and other ideas discussed in the blog posts are meant to be done as a family. Caregivers who also are learning English will get practice with the language at the same time while engaging in enjoyable family activities.
Previous blog posts in this series have featured games focused on English vocabulary, grammar, speaking, phonological awareness, and other skills. Families can prepare the activity or game (the preparation includes English practice opportunities) with household materials and then play together. In our most recent post in the series, IRRC Writing Coordinator Nicole DeSalle shows you how to use the planning and doing of chores as a catalyst to speak and write in English, ask questions about the past, and use different tenses to talk about chores that have been or will be done.
Learning a new language is an ongoing process, and many EL caregivers will more fully understand the ideas in these blog posts if they are reading them in their native language. That is why we have the posts translated into 17 of the most common home languages of Iowa families. There are helpful web browsers and extensions that will translate text into other languages, but by having the posts professionally translated into languages such as Spanish, Arabic, Karen, and Vietnamese, we are doing all we can to make sure that comprehension is not hindered by an erroneous translation. Once they have a basic understanding of the blog post topic, families can either start the activities in their native language, or, if they are ready, try doing them in English.
Returning to the tenet of helping all students practice their literacy skills, the games and activities described are usable by anyone, regardless of skill level or whether or not they are an EL. Choosing more advanced words to use in a card game or encouraging extra conversation about chores (while simultaneously knocking several items off the family to-do list) that may not have otherwise happened can benefit any literacy learner!

Meet Our New Staff Member

Taylor Miller

Taylor is joining our team as an online learning specialist from Crystal Lake, Ill. She earned a Master of Science degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
After previously working as Director of IW Online at Iowa Wesleyan University, she is ready to assist with the IRRC’s online instructional needs. Taylor says she is excited to expand her expertise and knowledge of learning management systems.
Outside of work, Taylor enjoys running, hiking, and generally being outside. Additionally, she said she likes a warm cup of coffee or tea to start her day.
Thank you for reading!
Deborah K. Reed, Ph.D.
Director, Iowa Reading Research Center

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