I recently attended the International Reading Association (IRA) Convention in New Orleans. I haven’t attended for several years, so it was nice to spend a few days thinking exclusively about language arts. Since Children’s Literature is one of the courses I teach at the university, it was exciting to meet and hear from some of our most popular children’s and adolescent authors. I have been impressed by the quality of literature that is being published at this time. I think the key to getting children involved in books is to provide subjects that they find interesting and current. A great example of that is the current buzz around the adolescent book, “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green. I know there is a movie coming out, but the book itself has caused a stir since it was published. I’m not sure a story about two cancer patients falling in love would have been of interest a few years ago. But, it seems like currently most teenagers know someone who has had cancer or they have lost someone in their life.
Aside from the great conference moments around current literature, there were wonderful recently published reading programs on display. The convention showcased many new products and teacher resources to help teachers with reading instruction. We know that the best predictor of reading success is the attitude and expertise of the teacher. But, having good materials and training manuals help guide that teacher in the right direction. I was also pleased to see materials suggesting art, science, social studies, math, and physical activity could also help teach reading. Reading is part of all life. Good teachers and administrators recognize that integrating all other subjects into reading is teaching life skills.
I enjoyed the IRA Convention and would highly recommend it to anyone who works with children or adolescents. Taking a few days to just think about reading was very nice. Even with the distraction of being in New Orleans, I was impressed by the commitment of those attending. I think many teachers realize that teaching a child to read may be the difference between the child enjoying the jazz music as a visitor on Bourbon Street or begging for a handout in the alleys that lead there.