Children with and without risk factors develop reading difficulties. Reading difficulties may stem from skills deficits, developmental issues, motivation problems, or other areas of concern. Consequently, if reading difficulties persist, students exhibit poor performance in other subject areas and experience increases in learning gaps.
What can be done about such issues? Reading specialists can help! A plethora of research-based strategies for improving reading exist. Reading specialists are experts; they can apply such strategies and interventions to support students and lead effective reading initiatives and instructional programs.
What is a Reading Specialist?
A reading specialist is a knowledgeable, trained expert in reading. Reading specialists know and can apply reading research, including the science of learning to read, effective teaching and learning strategies, proven programs and resources, appropriate reading assessments, and ways to track and use data.
Specialists use this knowledge to make decisions during the creation and implementation of effective practices to benefit students and schools. Ultimately, reading specialists support and improve students’ reading achievement.
How Does the Certification Improve Your Pedagogical Skills?
The International Literacy Association published Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals in 2017, and the standards are mastery targets for those wishing to become reading specialists. Reading specialist certification programs require reading specialist candidates to demonstrate knowledge and skills in the following standard-based areas:
- Foundational knowledge
- Curriculum and instruction
- Assessment and evaluation
- Diversity and equity
- Learners and the literacy environment
- Professional learning and leadership
Upon successful completion of a reading specialist certification program, specialists can lead literacy improvement practices, develop literacy-focused systems, assess reading programs and abilities, facilitate collaborative meetings around reading achievement and practices, instruct and intervene with students, coach teachers on best practices, advocate for change, and meet students’ literacy needs. Therefore, becoming a reading specialist requires candidates to obtain deep pedagogical skills related to literacy.
With their wealth of knowledge and skills, reading specialists may have many career opportunities, including reading interventionists, literacy coaches, reading-curriculum developers, or reading teachers. Following is a brief description or definition of each:
Reading interventionists work with students to improve students’ reading. The interventionists assess the learner’s needs and implement interventions to move students toward reading goals.
Literacy coaches work with teachers and leaders to coach them on best literacy practices. For example, many content area teachers have limited experience teaching students to read. However, with reading gaps existent across the nation, nearly all teachers must support literacy efforts. A literacy coach works with such teachers to help them develop instructional skills to support literacy efforts.
Reading Curriculum Developers
Reading specialists who work in curriculum development evaluate current practices, plan for revisions to ineffective methods, and codify changes that need to occur and expectations around those changes. Developers also collaborate with other experts to create content material, lesson plans, student activities, pacing documents, and more.
Reading teachers teach reading and facilitate students’ learning to read and to apply skills in all five reading components: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
Each bit of knowledge gained and applied in becoming certified as a reading specialist and resulting career opportunity results in improved reading opportunities and outcomes for students. What a worthy field and area of certification! What worthy results!