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Literacy Coach Essay 1

Literacy Coach Essay

Laurie Shapiro

Longwood University
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Reading specialists can be defined as professionals with experience and training in

reading. These professionals are accountable for the literacy performances of readers in pre-k

through twelve grades. Specialists are particularly concerned with students that exhibit reading

difficulties. They offer intensive, direct, and explicit instruction that works in addition to the

existing instruction provided by classroom teachers.

Literacy coaches can be understood as a reading specialist whose focus is on delivering

profession development to teachers. This occurs by offering a plethora of literacy instructional

tools, strategies, and programs. Literacy coaches predominantly work to coach and provide

professional support that fosters reflective thinking about how to efficiently improve student

learning. These coaches serve as leaders in the implementation of a school’s literacy program

(International Literacy Association, 2010). In some instances, literacy coaches utilize the

community collaborative cohort model, which serves to “establish a learning community among

teams of teachers with a focus on relationships, collaboration, research, and personal reflection”

(Miller & Stewart, 2013). Literacy coaches in this instance take on the role of enabling the

integration of each professional development component within an academic community.

The International Literacy Association (ILA) delineates the qualifications of a reading

specialist and a literacy coach as the being same. This is because the ILA “expects to see

evidence of both in this candidate” (International Literacy Association, 2010). These

qualifications include a valid teaching certificate, previous teaching experience, and a master’s

degree with a concentration in reading and writing education. Additionally, to be qualified for

these positions, a teacher must have program experiences that enhance knowledge, skills, and

dispositions related to working with students, supporting or coaching teachers, and heading

school literacy programs. The ILA website notes that candidates must have the equivalent of
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twenty-one to twenty-seven graduate semester hours in related reading and language arts

courses. These courses must include supervised practicum experience, where candidates work

with struggling readers (International Literacy Association, 2013). The difference in the

qualifications for a classroom literacy teacher and those for a reading specialist or literacy coach

is that no previous teaching experience is required of a classroom educator.

Over the past few decades, the role of reading specialists and literacy coaches have been

subject to change. This change stems from an evolution of needs within schools, which are

reflected in public policy. Title I of the 1965 ESEA was the first federal initiative that

specifically funded reading education in United States schools, specifically designed to improve

reading achievement in low income areas. This led to the position of a “title I teacher” who

served as a reading specialist by creating and implementing intervention for small groups of

struggling readers. In 2000, Congress authorized the “revision of ESEA of 1965 and the reissue

of title I” (Dole, 2004). This new ESEA required that all teachers had to be highly qualified to

teach reading, the instructional reading strategies used had to be scientifically based, and

effective and efficient informal assessment techniques must be used to inform instruction and aid

teachers in progress monitoring (Dole, 2004). Each of these conditions shaped the roles of

reading specialists from reading teachers to high qualified and specifically trained professionals,

equipped with the capability to use research based instructional practices to diagnose reading


After researching the roles of reading specialists and literacy coaches, I would love to

become a literacy coach. The qualities required to embody a great literacy coach are

exceptionally inspiring. Jim Knight explains that a good literacy coach “takes on the partnership

approach to collaboration” by enrolling teachers, identifying teacher’s goals, listening, asking

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questions, explaining teaching practices, providing feedback, and partnering for success (Knight,

2011). I feel that I would be able to apply each of these components for building successful

partnerships. In doing so, I would be able to make a positive influence on the teaching practices

of multiple educators, thus impacting the lives of countless students.

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Dole, J. A. (2004). The Changing Role of the Reading Specialist in School Reform. The Reading Teacher,

57(5), 462-471.

International Literacy Association. (2010). Standards. Retrieved February 23, from

Knight, J. (2011). What Good Coaches Do. Coaching: The New Leadership Skill, 69(2), 18-22.

Miller, S., & Stewart, A. (2013). Literacy Learning Through Team Coaching. The Reading Teacher, 67(4),