New Jersey Literacy Association
We Are #literacystrong !
Our mission is to empower, support, and inspire literacy role models in New Jersey who are making a difference in the lives of
readers and writers.
Dear NJ Literacy Changemakers,
I hope this newsletter finds you well rested and energized to do what you do best: loving and caring for students across the great State of New Jersey! So many of you have reached out to the New Jersey Literacy Association (NJLA) to find ways to get involved, and our group looks forward to creating more avenues so that we can serve and impact readers and writers from all corners of New Jersey. We continue to keep our membership free so that all teachers and literacy leaders are reached and represented.
There is so much work to do, and we need changemakers like you to get it done. You may have read news where this past July, a Federal District Court judge in Michigan ruled that access to literacy is not a Constitutional right. I hope you will consider joining NJLA and the ILA community as we unveil plans to advocate for every child’s right to read, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status. As a newly elected ILA Board Member, I was recently selected to serve on the international task force aimed at ensuring that this message gets out there. We need to be loud and we need to be strategic.  READ MORE about rights and activities.
Best Practice Check-In
  • Print, Cursive, Keyboarding, Oh My! by Dr. Susan Dougherty
Book Recommendations
  • Developing Assessment-Capable Learners by Dr. Sheila J. Cooper
  • Teachers As Readers by Dr. Carmen Gordillo
Focus on Instructional Practice
  • Vocabulary: The Key to the Kingdom! by Maureen Hall, Ed.S
Tech Talk : Seesaw by Dr. Peggy OReilly
School and Classroom Vignettes
  • Why I Let My Students Write Whatever They Want by Kristen Charleston
  • Planning for a Successful Family Literacy Night by Gina Molinari-Schiano
  • High School Students Spur Joy in ESL LitCamp by Dr. Kenneth Kunz
Community Action: BookSmiles in Vineland by Jane Arochas
Opportunities for Students
  • NJASL & NJLA Enthusiastic Readers Award Program
  • NJLA Announces a Student Writing Project
2018 Professional Development Opportunities
Keep in Touch with NJLA
Handwriting – Print, Cursive, Keyboarding, Oh My!
by Dr. Susan Dougherty, Rider University
Often I ask my 20- and 21-year old college students what they think about teaching handwriting. Most of these future teachers are torn. They remember, either fondly or with dread, the handwriting lessons in their elementary classrooms. Most often they share stories related to the teaching of cursive. Some of them loved learning cursive; many of them hated it. And, however they felt at the time that they learned cursive, the vast majority of them report rarely using it. These college students do write by hand, just not in cursive. The idea that keyboards would completely replace longhand forms of writing has turned out to be incorrect. In fact, recent research has demonstrated that taking notes by hand is more beneficial than taking notes on a computer (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014). The reason for this advantage seems to be that we write slower than we type, and that slowness requires us to think as we take notes by hand, deciding what to write and how to concisely express what is most important about what we are learning. Not surprisingly, thinking as one listens and takes notes leads to deeper learning. 

We invite our readers to comment on this article or others in this issue. Write to us at Please include your name, district and role.
Developing Assessment-Capable Learners by Sheila J. Cooper
Selecting a text to read about teaching and learning, for an educator, is one of the hardest decisions. Time may be short (of course it is!) as well as funds, so finding a professional resource that provides “bang for your buck”, is vital. Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, K-12 , by Nancy Frey, John Hattie, and Douglas Fisher, totally fits the bill!
Wait, before you stop reading because you saw the words ”assessment-capable visible learners” and read ”teach to the test,” let me reassure you that this text in no way asks you to teach to any test. Rather, this book describes the characteristics of students who are visible learners and the actions teachers can take and decisions they can make to help all of their students really learn at the transfer level. Which is, after all, our goal as educators. READ MORE
Teachers As Readers by Dr. Carmen Gordillo
In her book, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child , renowned educator and presenter, Donalyn Miller argues that teachers need to be “reading role models” for students. It is important for teachers to share with students what they are reading, their own reading process, and great books on an ongoing basis. One of the best ways for educators to prepare for a new school year is to expand their knowledge of children’s and young adult books. Simply put, teachers who read more will have students who read more. Here are some tips/resources to help you build and support your own reading life: READ MORE
Vocabulary! The Key to the Kingdom by Maureen Hall, Ed.S.

“Vocabulary is the key to the kingdom of reading and writing,” is a statement I frequently make as I bring professional development to various districts across the state of New Jersey. I’m a literacy coach for the Rutgers Center for Literacy Development, and I passionately agree with that sentiment. If you think about it, how much listening, speaking, reading and writing can any of us do without a solid and ever-expanding vocabulary? The explicit teaching of vocabulary is often overlooked in the elementary classroom, in spite of the fact that knowledge of vocabulary is a strong predictor of reading comprehension (Baker, Simmons & Kame’enue, 1998; Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986) and that instituting a vocabulary program has a large effect on student achievement (Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2018). Even after teachers concede that explicit instruction in vocabulary is necessary, there are often questions about which words are important to teach and how to instruct within such a program. READ MORE
Seesaw: A Digital Approach to Collaborate and Organize Student Work by Dr. Peggy OReilly

While at the International Literacy Association Conference in Austin this past July, I saw a demonstration of Seesaw, a flexible, digital multi-media portfolio system that enables teachers and students to organize their work, communicate and collaborate with others (including families), schedule activities and track progress over time. Seesaw has many engaging capabilities that expand how students can develop their own products and respond to others work. Students and teachers can create and upload artifacts in multiple formats including photos, videos, drawings or text. Students also have multiple ways of annotating work including drawing or voice in addition to text, adding novelty and flexibility to commentaries!  
Why I Let My Students Write Whatever They Want
by Kristen Charleston

My journey teaching adolescents to write started when I took over as the middle school Integrated Language Arts (ILA) teacher in a small New Jersey town. Small, as in I am the only ILA teacher in the whole school. 

Our school has one small class per grade level, so teaching three grades doesn’t mean I teach a hundred students. However, whether you’re planning for 10 or 30, the amount of work is the same. There may even be extra work, because with class sizes of 10, you can “do so much more,” and believe me, we do!  READ MORE
Planning for a Successful Family Literacy Night
by Gina Molinari-Schiano

As a Literacy Coach at Dr. William H. Horton School, I have had the unique pleasure of interacting with ALL staff members throughout the year in grades K-8.   I had the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues to organize our Family Literacy Events. With any ¨ e vent p lanning¨ experience, creating a warm and welcoming space, engaging activities, and serving up some delicious food could seem a bit daunting. Thinking back to my beginning days of teaching and thematic instruction, we began to sketch out details for how our events would run and keep families coming back for more. Our events were set for Winter, Spring and the End of the School Year. Collaborating with teachers and sharing ideas also increased engagement and set up a strong volunteer core.
High Schoolers Spur Joy at ESL LitCamp by
Dr. Kenneth Kunz

This past summer, the Middlesex School District focused literacy efforts on their K-6 English Learners (ELs) through a newly designed program called ESL LitCamp. Using materials provided by Scholastic, the district recruited high school students to volunteer, making a huge difference in the lives of their younger peers in just four weeks. Check out the Scholastic feature article to learn more!
BOOKSMILES : Bringing Books and Joy to Vineland Students by Jane Arochas
NJLA Board Member Jane Arochas orchestrated a major book donation to the Vineland School District through BookSmiles, an organization that collects and disseminates gently used books to children in Southern Jersey. Arochas recently retired from Vineland Public Schools and decided to give back to the community. She met Larry Abrams at the NJEA Convention and then reconnected with Abrams at a volunteer event at their synagogue. Within a couple of weeks, Jane put together a project which enabled BookSmiles to deliver over 5,500 books to four schools in her former district. READ MORE
West Jersey Reading Council (WJRC) was honored by the International LIteracy Association (ILA) for its work on behalf of students and educators at the ILA national conference in Austin this summer. Bob S. Eisberg accepted the award on behalf on WJRC. This is the 35th year WJRC has been awarded this honor - truly an event to be celebrated. CONGRATULATIONS WJRC!
Want a wonderful way to encourage and acknowledge
your students' love of reading?
NJLA is excited to partner this year with the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) in the Enthusiastic Readers Award Program. School districts and libraries are invited to submit the names of students (K-12) along with supporting evidence to demonstrate their love of reading. The deadline for submission is October 15, 2018. Winners will be honored on Sunday, December 2, 2018 at the NJASL Fall Conference in Long Branch, N.J.
The application and Parent Permission slips can be found on the Enthusiastic Reader page of the NJASL Website.

You inspire and teach your students to become aspiring young authors every day. NJLA would like to support your efforts by providing selected New Jersey students in grades K-8 an opportunity to publish their work in a collection of narrative writing to appear on the New Jersey Literacy Association (NJLA) website in January 2019.  

In early October, NJLA will be sending an announcement to members along with directions, eligibility guidelines and selection criteria. We are excited to embark on this initiative and look forward to showcasing New Jersey students' work. 
Interested in professional development opportunities focused on literacy instruction?
Check out these offerings.

Check out our website for news and membership information:
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We are looking to engage our members in the work of NJLA. Interested in joining an NJLA committee for professional development, membership or social media? Interested in submitting an article for the newsletter? Contact us at
Executive Board
President: Kenneth Kunz, Ed. D., Supervisor of Curriculum & Instruction, K-12, Middlesex S.D.
Co-President: Maureen Hall, Ed.S., Literacy Consultant/Coach, Rutgers Center for Literacy Dev.
Treasurer: Janice Betts, Ed.D., Educational Consultant serving Atlantic and Cape May counties
Secretary: Peggy OReilly, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Bloomfield College (retired)

Lesley Morrow, Ph.D., Professor, Rutgers University, Director of RCLD, Past President of ILA
Tiffany Sears, ILA Chapter & Regional Services Manager
Avery Bredice, ILA Councils

Board Members
Kurt Abel, Supervisor of Instruction, Manalapan-Englishtown Regional S.D.
Juli-Anne Benjamin, Founder, EdCampNewark, ILA Board
Lindsay Bernero, Literacy Support Teacher, Special Education, Linden P.S.
Sheila Cooper, K-12 ELA Supervisor, Hillsborough Twp. P.S.
Susan Dougherty, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Literacy, Rider University
Carmen Gordillo, Ed.D., Middle School Language Arts Teacher, West Orange P.S., Rutgers PTL
Janet Higgins, Reading/Language Arts Specialist, East Amwell P.S.
Rachel Lella, Ed.D. Elementary & ESL Supervisor (K-12), Wall Twp. P.S.
Jill Mills, Media Specialist School District of the Chathams, NJASL Board
Gina Molinari-Schiano, Literacy Coach, Newark P.S.
Rita Spaulding, M.A., Elementary Teacher, Clayton P.S.