Reading is a lifelong skill and one of the earliest skills children learn in elementary school. While classroom teachers are responsible for providing differentiated reading instruction for all of the students in the classroom, the reading specialist is a more qualified instructor of literacy. Reading specialists have the experience of a classroom teacher with the literacy expertise and knowledge from earning an advanced degree.
The role of a reading specialist varies from school to school, but the overall purpose of the position remains constant. They work one on one or with a small group of students who have difficulty reading on grade level. With a master’s degree in reading or literacy, reading specialists are considered the literacy experts in the school. They provide intervention for students, consultation for staff, and support for classroom teachers. They’re most commonly found in elementary schools but are also hired in middle and high schools and adult literacy centers.
How to Become a Reading Specialist
An educator interested in becoming a reading specialist must have at least three years of classroom teaching experience before pursuing the role of a reading specialist. While some colleges and states provide reading certification classes, a master’s degree in reading or literacy is required in many school districts and states around the country. A graduate program with a concentration in reading places an emphasis on reading theory and how to effectively implement literacy instruction in the classroom. This includes a study on reading assessments, comprehension, phonics, writing intervention, and language difficulty detection. A practicum or internship is often required to support the application of literacy learning.
Career Opportunities Available
Many nationwide school districts are placing a greater emphasis on hiring a reading specialist for each of their schools. A reading specialist with a reading master’s degree can earn a higher salary than a classroom teacher and have many opportunities to advance. Outside of schools and adult literacy centers, they can be hired by a reading clinic or university. They can also launch into more leadership positions, including district literacy coaches, curriculum developers, or instructional coordinators.
Specific Duties as a Reading Specialist
The primary duty of a reading specialist is to serve as the literacy leader of a school to help promote a love of literacy and a passion for books. Their job is to ensure that all students have access to high-quality reading instruction. Reading specialists are responsible for administering reading assessments and diagnosing students with reading disabilities. They analyze the data of literacy assessments and determine what students qualify for more specialized reading instruction with them. In addition to working directly with children, reading specialists help classroom teachers plan reading lessons and collaborate with the librarian to create school-wide literacy events to promote a love of reading. This highly specialized educator is also in high demand as a key teacher in a child’s reading educational journey.