In our Literacy Leadership podcast series, we’re talking about the qualities, characteristics, and traits of literacy leaders. Dr. Terrie Noland, V.P. of Educator Initiatives at Learning Ally says, “Leadership is not about having a certain title or position, it’s about our underlying values -- our human spirit. You cannot separate the person from the educator. The heart, mind, soul, and spirit all play a role in becoming a literacy leader."
Literacy Leaders Are Builders
Being a leader begins with preparation, and literacy leaders are builders. They share a vision. They fuel the vision. They think about how to develop good readers. They prepare and plan. “Start with a vision of glorious, happy students who become successful readers because of your efforts,” says Noland.
But how do you get to that end goal? You build knowledge. You build a team. You identify the critical infrastructure needed to teach a solid foundation in early reading skills, including phonemic awareness, decoding, word study, and vocabulary. Literacy leaders build the walls of reading skills brick by brick by applying interactive, rich language-based literacy experiences that are culturally relevant and fold in background knowledge to fire the brain's neural pathways.
Literacy Leaders Demonstrate a Growth Mindset
Dr. Louisa Moats states that "Informed teachers change lives." Working toward the goal that all children read successfully, you share professional knowledge to demonstrate a growth mindset. You lead by your actions. With knowledge and a growth mindset, you build credibility with colleagues, you present research about how the brain learns to read, and apply the evidence-based instruction needed to ensure all students become good readers.
Literacy Leaders Build Capacity…and Bridges
Transformation is not easy. Literacy leaders know that. They challenge assumptions. They build capacity. They build bridges to get to the finish line, leading up, down and across the aisle. They believe in the team and lean on others for support. They understand that the credit is not theirs alone, but by building relationships and partnerships with the team, and by demonstrating persistence. Literacy leaders don’t blame or shame or drain other’s mindsets. They listen.
The Job of the Literacy Leader
Literacy leaders stand firm on early literacy best practices based on evidence-based research. In a recent study by Rand Corporation, “Teachers Matter, Understanding Teachers’ Impact on Student Achievement, research shows that high value-added teachers influence not only student’s short term goals, but their long-term outcomes, such as graduation, college attendance, and earnings. The job of a literacy leader is to teach reading as a science, add reinforcements and readjust. Dr. Noland adds, “Reading failure of your kids, my kids, someone else’s kids is our mutual responsibility, especially for literacy leaders. Lack of preparation and knowledge lead to unwanted consequences – a significant risk of inequity in education, and unwelcome social injustices. Let's continue to support and build up literacy leaders who are on the frontline to make sure all children read well to succeed well.”