What is a reading specialist?
A reading specialist, as defined by the International Literacy Association, is a teacher for students who experience reading difficulties. Literacy education may involve working strictly with students at the elementary or secondary level. Some specialists, however, work with both students and other teachers as a reading coach or literacy coach. A reading specialist has three main types of duties in a reading program: instruction, assessment and leadership. Some reading specialists may have a specific focus area where they spend the majority of their time and efforts, but every reading specialist should be prepared to fulfill each of these types of responsibilities.
Roles of a reading specialist
The roles of a reading specialist vary by position within a literacy education program: reading intervention teacher, the reading coach and the reading supervisor. The basic reading specialist position is the reading intervention teacher. This type of specialist gives focused instruction to students who struggle with reading. The reading intervention teacher might provide instruction within the students' classrooms or in a separate environment.
Reading coaches or literacy coaches provide additional support in literacy education to teachers throughout an entire school. A candidate for this type of position should have a background in staff and professional development, as well as reading and literacy. A reading coach assists teachers as they implement instructional programs in their classrooms and supports teachers to solve the problems unique to their own classroom situations.
Reading specialists may also provide leadership to an entire school reading program as a reading supervisor or reading coordinator. These specialists work in an administrator capacity and should have the professional experience and skills necessary to develop and implement professional development programs from kindergarten through grade 12. Experience as a reading coach is a great benefit to someone working as a reading supervisor or reading coordinator.
Qualifications to become a reading specialist
A teacher interested in pursuing a career path in literacy education should be mindful of the requirements to become a reading specialist. A fundamental qualification is previous teaching experience at the elementary or secondary level. A reading specialist must hold a master's degree with a concentration in reading education. The coursework for this degree should include a minimum of 24 graduate semester hours in reading and language arts and related courses. A reading specialist must also complete six semester hours of supervised practicum experience.
Today's classrooms are more diverse and challenging than ever. The needs of students with reading difficulties must be met by at least one reading specialist in every school. A successful literacy education program at the elementary or secondary level comes through the careful expertise and leadership of a trained, experienced reading specialist.
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