September 2013
Membership #:           
Expiration Date:    
In This Issue
IRC Book Club
Relationships with Parents
Quality eBooks for K-8
Website Links
November 1, 2013

IRC Service Award
November 1, 2013

Legislator of the Year
November 1, 2013

Obama Library Award
November 1, 2013

Rural Library Award
November 1, 2013

Welcome to iCommunicate, IRC's monthly e-newsletter! Here you will learn, share, and enjoy information on timely topics and cutting edge projects. We'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please contact us with your comments, suggestions, and ideas at   
By the Illinois Reading Council




Pat Braun, IRC Past President and Assistant Professor of Education from Benedictine University at Springfield, will lead participants in online chats, discussions, research, and activities connected to the book Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap by renowned researcher and literacy leader, Richard Allington. The book discussions will occur over a five-month period starting in October 2013. Monthly chat questions, response posts, and activities will require about 3 hours per month to be fully involved in the book club. If you participate all five months, you will be eligible to receive 15 CPDUs. Registration for the book club is FREE for IRC MEMBERS, with a cost of $30 for processing CPDUs. The cost for nonmembers is $75 for the book club, which includes IRC membership for one year and CPDU credits. All participants will be invited to a special session with Richard Allington at the 2014 IRC Conference. Conference registration and cost of book are not included.  Visit to register today!
By Laurie Elish-Piper, Presidential Teaching Professor and Literacy Clinic Director, Northern Illinois University and International Reading Association Board Member


Many research studies have concluded that parents and families support and contribute to students' learning and successes in many ways (e.g., Dearing, Kreider, Simpkins, & Weiss, 2007; Henderson & Mapp, 2002).  As the new school year gets underway, here are practical ideas for building the types of positive communication and effective conferences that can support students' learning and achievement.


In any relationship, communication is an essential element.  The same is true for parent-teacher relationships.  Four key considerations for building positive communication with parents are provided below:

  1. Start early and communicate often. Introduce yourself to parents in a letter, email, posting on your classroom website, or at Open House.  Tell about your background, goals for the year, and how parents can support their child's learning.  Introduce yourself to each parent at Open House or Back to School night.  Provide regular communication so parents feel like they are "in the loop," and they know that they can contact you with any questions or concerns.  Be sure to use forms of communication that work well for parents and for you--phone calls, in-person conversations, home visits, newsletters, emails, and website postings.
  2. If your students' parents speak a language other than English, be sure to find ways to communicate with them.  Some schools have home-school liaisons who can help you communicate with diverse parents, and some have translators who can provide written materials in other languages.  In addition, community-based organizations, religious institutions, colleges, and service agencies may have resources to help communicate with parents who speak languages other than English.  
  3. Contact parents to share positive feedback about things such as a good grade, strong effort, good work habits, positive attitude, or excellent participation.  By starting out on a positive note, parents will see that you are looking for the good in their children, and they will be more open to communicating with you in the future--even when problems arise.  
  4. Use the "my child" test to determine when to contact parents and how to discuss challenging issues.  Ask yourself, "If this were my child, would I want the teacher to contact me?"  If the answer is "yes" then consider how to discuss challenging issues such as behavior problems or poor academic performance.  By selecting language that lays out the issue as a sincere concern and offers possible solutions, parents will be more likely to feel open and comfortable to work with you to help resolve the issue.

Parent-teacher conferences are typically implemented in schools to provide information about student learning and progress.  In their traditional format of 15 minutes once or twice per year, conferences can be limited in their effectiveness.  The 4-P's of conferences offer excellent ideas for making conferences more productive.


Prepare:  Before the conference invite parents to prepare questions they would like to discuss.  Organize materials so you have student work samples to share.  Identify specific suggestions to share about how the student can improve in the classroom as well as how the parents can support success at home.  Plan to start the conference on a positive note, sharing something that the student is doing well.


Pace:  Plan for at least 20 minutes per conference--more if a student is struggling.  If there is too much to discuss at a single conference, schedule a follow-up so that you can discuss issues fully.  Be sure that the pace of the conference is not too rushed and that parents have an opportunity to ask questions and offer input.


Participants:  Having students participate in conferences offers many benefits.  First, it sends the message that school success involves teacher--parent--and student.  Second, the teacher and student can demonstrate skills and strategies the student is learning so parents understand how they can reinforce them at home.  And third, it allows students to take more ownership for their own learning.


Partnership Approach:  Show parents that you view them as partners and that they are keys to their children's success in school.  Use partnership language such as "we" and "our," and offer specific suggestions for how you can work together to resolve issues and promote greater success for the student.  Finally, be sure to listen as much as you talk at the conference so that parents truly have a chance to discuss their concerns, questions, and insights.



Dearing, E., Kreider, H., Simpkins, S., and Weiss, H. (January 2007). Family involvement in school and low-income children's literacy performance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project. Available:


Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Available:

STARWALK KIDS MEDIA:  Providing High Quality eBooks for K-8 "Digital Natives"
By LIz Nealon, Founding Partner, StarWalk Kids Media


Author Seymour Simon and I created StarWalk Kids Media to meet a real need in American K-8 schools and libraries.  More and more, schools are beginning to acquire the latest educational technologies, supported by broadband Internet connectivity.  But as every educator knows, the hardware is only as relevant as the software available to use with it.  There has been a severe shortage of quality literature, both fiction and particularly nonfiction, that is available and affordable in digital form.  Our goal in forming StarWalk Kids was to fill that void.  As Seymour is fond of saying, 'I wanted my eBooks to be on the best possible I built it!'

That is true for all of the quality authors and illustrators whom we publish exclusively in the StarWalk Kids collection...names you know and trust like David A. Adler, Johanna Hurwitz, Kathleen Krull, Kathryn Lasky, Doreen Rappaport, Hudson Talbott, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and more.


School Library Journal called our collection:  "...gorgeously designed pre-K through grade 8 eBooks...Tightly curated for exceptional quality, the collection is about 60 percent highly illustrated nonfiction, and all titles are simultaneous-access licensed, making a subscription to StarWalk Kids a solid way to support Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for reading and writing." (Read the entire review here.)


Library Media Connection's Recommended review noted that: "Books download quickly and the icons are intuitive....Teaching Links offer suggestions for applying the CCSS."


We are gratified that respected professional journals are noting these qualities in their reviews because StarWalk Kids is designed to meet the needs of the modern, differentiated classroom. Our eBooks work on any device with Internet access, students can log in at school or at home, and we allow multiple users to access the same book at the same time, so that you'll never need to tell a child that she needs to wait two weeks to read an eBook that she is excited about right now! We have listened to you talk about the challenges facing our schools and libraries, and we have done our best to build a product that meets the needs of today's kids, who are digital natives (unlike ourselves, who are digital immigrants).


I'd like to call your attention to the deep, robust Search mechanism that we provide for educators, enabling users to search for eBooks by title, author, keyword, age, grade, genre, subject, Lexileďż˝ Level and Alphabetic (Fountas & Pinnell) Reading Level. We have also worked with nationally recognized literacy expert Linda Hoyt to create a labeling system that allows educators to search by applicability to specific Common Core State Standards. It is a powerful search tool.


Another important feature is the free, downloadable "Teaching Links" document that we provide for educators to use with each eBook. The Teaching Links, also developed by Linda Hoyt, tie each of our eBooks to specific, applicable Common Core standards and include suggestions for activities to incorporate CCSS in the classroom.  


The entire StarWalk Kids collection is available as a streaming subscription at a very affordable, annual price that is easily accommodated within most materials budgets. Once you've experienced our best-in-class StarWalk Reader™ software, used our powerful search tools, and observed how completely intuitive the platform is for kids, I hope that you will sign up for a free, 30-day Trial Subscription for your school or library, and use our special IRC discount to purchase a subscription for your school or classroom.  Click here for details.


Liz Nealon, a founding partner in StarWalk Kids Media, is an award-winning executive producer and children's media industry leader who played an integral role in shaping several indelible youth brands. Liz served as the Worldwide Creative Director for Sesame Street, and was part of the start-up team at MTV, where she traveled the world as Senior Vice President of International Programming, launching the brand in Europe, Brazil, Japan and Australia.