About St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA

a professional organization of educators and individuals actively engaged
in the development of literacy throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.

Read More

Membership Information: August 2016




Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director

 St. Louis Suburban Council of International Reading Association is a true professional learning community with 206 members in 2015-2016.  Congratulations to each of you who rushed to send your renewal membership forms this summer, recognizing the benefits of our collegial and professional organization.

Information about Membership

The Executive Board met in June 2016 and voted to raise membership dues for 2016-2017.  Many Executive Board members reached out to members about the possibility of raising dues because of rising organizational costs.  Many members responded that slightly raising dues to help with costs such as the council website and sponsoring a local literacy conference would be a good idea.

Remember that if you join as part of a team of two or more from your school building or district or university, you will be considered a Literacy Team and pay only $16.00 per person.  To be considered a Literacy Team, you need to mail the membership forms to Jody in the same envelope.  Single membership is $20.00.  If you are a full time student or retired, you may join for $10.00.  In addition, your local council membership gives you automatic membership in the Missouri State Council of International Reading Association.  You will receive their benefits of website newsletters and state journal, The Missouri Reader.  The advantage of professional networking will allow you to meet and share ideas with educators from all over the St. Louis suburban area, while developing lasting and valued friendships.

A Membership form for 2016-2017 is in the September 2016 newsletterPlease consider mailing your form in today.   Our new membership year begins July 1, 2016.   Also, membership forms may be printed from the council’s website, (www.STLSuburbanReading.org) or contact Jody at: (jrozbicki@ladueschools.net).

 See you at our September 8 meeting!



Political Connections: Election 2016


Political Connections

 by Mary Eileen Rufkahr

Although it seems to have been going on forever, the election season is just truly upon us this fall.  Whether you teach kindergarten or graduate studies, the electoral process opens up numerous cross-curricular opportunities.  While math and social studies are two of the more obvious subjects to tie to the elections, reading and language arts teachers can also use the political process in their classes as well.

When teachers click onto http://pbskids.org/democracy/parents-and-teachers/be-president/presidential-diary/ they will find a lesson based on the concept of being president for a day.  Using the many resources outlined in the unit, students will compose a diary, as president, outlining their day.  From writing letters to foreign dignitaries to drafting a speech, this site, maintained by The PBS Kids Democracy Project provides young people with an opportunity to learn more about the person who leads our country.

For the younger set, https://kids.usa.gov/index.shtml offers a Martha Washington re-enactor telling George Washington’s favorite story, the Fable of Mercury and the Woodman.  Tradition holds that Washington loved this tale most of all, as it stressed the importance of telling the truth. Go to the website below to see the full video:


The site https://www.kidsvotingusa.org/ has a dynamic lesson in community involvement for high school-aged students.  Students are encouraged to create a public performance which will educate the school community on the different perspectives which exist about a current school issue.  Students will need to employ both their critical reading skills and persuasive writing abilities for the successful completion of this project.  Check out the lesson plan at:  https://www.kidsvotingusa.org/educators/sample-curricula/6-9-12-grade-activity-creative-expressions.

The jargon that flows freely during newscasts, debates and in newspapers can leave even the most politically savvy adult scratching their head wondering “what did they just say?”  Scholastic offers teachers a way to help students learn the common (and not so common) vocabulary words that pop up during election cycles.  Visit http://election.scholastic.com/election-central/vocabulary/ and help students learn valuable terms for understanding the dialogue this election season.


Legislative Update: Dyslexia


Legislative Update

Mary Eileen Rufkahr

Missouri House Bill 2379 is of particular note to educators.  The bill, which went to Governor Jay Nixon on May 25th and was signed by him on June 22nd, specifies that public schools shall screen students for dyslexia and related disorders and establishes a task force on dyslexia.

The Missouri House voted on the final version of the bill on May 13th, with a final vote of 141 in favor of the measure and 7 against.  In the Missouri Senate, on the same day, 145 approved the final document, with 6 voting against it.

The bill was sponsored by Kathryn Swan (R)  District 147.

This bill requires each public school to screen students for dyslexia and related disorders at appropriate times in accordance with rules established by the State Board of Education.  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) must develop guidelines for the appropriate screening of students and the necessary classroom supports.  The requirements and guidelines must be consistent with the findings and recommendations of the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia, which is also created by this bill.

The school board of each district and governing board of each charter school must provide reasonable support consistent with the guidelines developed by DESE.  “Related disorders” are defined as disorders similar to or related to dyslexia, such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, practicing teacher assistance programs will include two hours of in-service training regarding dyslexia and related disorders.

This bill establishes the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.  The task force consists of 21 specified members including two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and two members appointed by the President Pro Tem of the Senate.  The task force must meet quarterly and make recommendations to the Governor, the Joint Committee on Education, and specified state agencies.  The task force will make recommendations for a statewide system for identification, intervention and delivery of supports for students with dyslexia including the development of resources, materials, professional development activities and proposed legislation.

The task force authorized under these provisions will expire on August 31, 2018.

The full version of the final, perfected bill, can be found at:  http://house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills161/billpdf/truly/HB2379T.PDF.


President’s Message 3.16.16


President’s Message
Facebook, the Web, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat – so many ways to get connected today BUT ask yourself, “What is missing?” The answer is simple – face to face contact. We all love (and depend on) our technology. It even permeates our literacy instruction. The January/February publication of Literacy Today devoted five articles to the issue of digital skills and digital literacy. A most interesting component that surfaced was the vital role that a teacher played in the instruction of technology.

Thinking of how important this human contact is made me think of the value St. Louis Suburban Council has played during my career. It has created a professional and social network of educational colleagues, offered a host of professional development opportunities, and provided ongoing contact to current literacy resources – all of which have enhanced my professional growth. If you are reading this newsletter, you have already made a commitment to joining a professional organization and recognize its many benefits. So I now encourage you to reach out to your friends and colleagues asking them to become a member and experience for themselves the benefits of St. Louis Suburban Council.

Following the theme of technology integration, our April 13th spring banquet features Kelli Westmoreland (sponsored by Booksource) whose topic is – Integrating Digital Literacies: A Lens for Critical Thinking. This is a great opportunity for you to make plans to attend the banquet and to bring a colleague.

Be sure to follow St. Louis Suburban Council at http://stlsuburbanreading.org

Tamara Rhomberg

Write to Learn 3.16.16


Write to Learn Conference 2016
by Betty Porter Walls, Ph.D.

Nearly one thousand educators gathered at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, MO for the 2016 Write to Learn Conference (WTL) on February 25-27. Every room at the resort was occupied; hallways were crowded between sessions; long lines waited to get books autographed by authors who were keynote and featured speakers; the vibrant sound of adult engagement and learning permeated the resort; exhibits were plentiful and teachers shopped and wished for funds to purchase new, creative resources. The weather at the lake was beautiful and the conference was full of exuberance.

Keynote speakers challenged everyone’s thoughts. Taylor Mali reminded us why we do what we do – teach. Author Tanny McGregor stressed the power of the reflective practitioner. Adam Gidwitz fascinated everyone with the well-known Grimm’s Fairy Tales currently retold in a terrifyingly humorous manner; perhaps there’s a new genre of literature. Ron Clark lifted our spirits, made us laugh as he acknowledged the differences educators make in the lives of our students as we ‘teach through adversity’ and face continuing challenges. So great was the caliber and commitment that one speaker, Kate Messner, who was snowed in on the east coast, Skyped her full-day pre-conference workshop.

This year’s WTL offered a plethora of inviting sessions. Two of our own St. Louis Suburban Council International Reading Association (IRA) board members conducted sessions. Both President Tamara Rhomberg and Betty Porter Walls had more than one hundred twenty (120) teachers in our workshops. Tammy’s workshop title was “Making the Most of Writer’s Workshop: Mini-Lessons that Enhance Author Crafts. Betty’s title was “Creating a Culture of Writing Right in the Classroom: The Teacher Makes the Difference.” Board member Tom Cornell also attended the WTL. We all helped at the exhibition booth for the Missouri State Council of the International Reading Association (MSC-IRA) which recruited a number of new members.

Fun, engaging and creative activities were featured for educators during the WTL; these included a ‘magnetic poetry contest’ for spontaneous compositions, the ‘micro-essay contest’ with the sentence stem, ’Teachers make a difference because …. ,’ and the ’mad libs’ contest for creative and humorous writers. As prizes
were announced, it was pure joy to observe the surprise and sheer pleasure of the winners. The ‘Open Mic’ allowed budding writers, poets, musicians, and artists an opportunity to showcase their talents. Students in grades PK– 12 who were winners of the ‘2016 Missouri Writing Awards Contest’ showed great excitement when receiving their awards while their parents and teachers beamed with pride.

The WTL Conference was quite an enjoyable professional development event and I look forward to attending next year. Mark your calendars for February 16-18, 2017.

Top 5 Benefits of IRA Membership


Top 5 Benefits of IRA Membership
* Practical teaching tools you can use in the classroom
* Access to top-rated journals, innovative research, and best practices
* Being part of a community of reading professionals
* Discounts on IRA publications and other professional development resources
* Reduced conference registration rates
* Information on IRA membership (http://www.reading.org)

Book Reviews 3.16.16


The Invisible Boy written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton

Gr. K-2. In The Invisible Boy, Brian struggles with being invisible to his teachers, not picked for kickball games, and not invited to birthday parties. It isn’t until Brian takes a chance and reaches out to Justin, a new student at school, that he starts to become visible to everyone around him. This is an excellent book for a discussion about including everyone and how it feels to be left out. One of the best aspects of this book is that while a new student in Brian’s class is the catalyst for change, Brian takes an active role in the solution to his problem by using his talent for drawing to reach out to Justin. The illustrator draws Brian in black and white during the parts of the story where he’s invisible and slowly adds color as more people see him. By the end of the book, Brian is in full color like everyone else. This subtle technique could prompt a discussion of symbolism for older students.

The Book With No Pictures written by B.J. Novak

Gr. K-2. This may be one of the best read-alouds of all time. Oddly enough, I first ran across this book on YouTube. I was looking for examples of great read-alouds for a class, and I came across a video of Jessica Pelka reading this book to a class of first graders (check it out – link below!). The teacher and the kids have so much fun reading this book together that I watched the entire 24 minute video so entranced that I forgot entirely the assignment that brought me to the video in the first place. Mr. Novak plays with language so masterfully, you will never even miss the pictures. Kids will have a new respect for the power of words after listening to this book and might enjoy writing their own “book with no pictures.”

Rain Reign written by Ann M. Martin

Gr. 4-6. Rose is an earnest, likable girl who is on the autistic spectrum. She’s obsessed with homophones (not homonyms, as she’s quick to explain!). Rose’s mother left when she was two, and she lives with her father, who struggles to deal with Rose’s quirkiness. The two bright spots in Rose’s life are her loving uncle and a stray dog that her father brings home one night. When her father lets the dog, Rain, out during a storm, the dog disappears, and Rose is heartbroken. Girl and dog are reunited, but Rose faces a difficult decision. Before Rain came to live with Rose, she belonged to a loving family who had been searching for her for months. Can Rose give Rain back? Can she keep her knowing she belongs to someone else? How will she live with herself either way? This book will open a lively discussion on how to make the hardest choices in life. It also offers an opportunity for readers to engage in the same kind of wordplay that Rose does, competing to find homophones, homographs, and homonyms (and understanding the difference among the three).

Poster Contest 3.16.16


THEME: “For the Love of Reading”

Read and follow the poster contest guidelines.

*Posters should be unfolded on poster board or heavy index card stock, size. 11”x14”.
*The long side must be VERTICAL.
*Magic markers, crayons. pen and ink, tempera paints, acrylics, watercolors or a combination of mediums may be used. NO CHALK OR PENCILS. Bold colors are preferred. Avoid pale colors. Lettering must be easily read.
*All artwork must be original. DO NOT USE TRADEMARKS, such as Garfield, Disney characters, etc. NO REAL BOOK TITLES ALLOWED.


*Posters are completed in local school districts. Local school districts determine which posters in each grade category will be forwarded to St. Louis Suburban IRA council.
*Only one entry per student is allowed. OFFICIAL ENTRY BLANK attached to the back of each poster must be completely filled out and signed by a parent or caregiver. NO POSTER WILL BE JUDGED WITHOUT ALL OF THIS INFORMATION.
*Posters may be submitted between 4:30 and 5:30 pm at the St. Louis Suburban IRA spring meeting on April 13th, 2016.


*Judging of the posters will take place at the spring banquet meeting of the St. Louis Suburban IRA.
Posters will be judged on:
*Freshness of theme and treatment of subject.
*Original, eye-catching, appealing artwork.
*Inventive and bold design.
*Ability to encourage students of varying ages to read.
*Winners will be selected in FOUR GRADE CATEGORIES: Pre-K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8.
*All posters will be returned the evening of the judging.


The three best posters in each of the four categories will be recognized by the St. Louis Suburban Council IRA. Winners will be posted online on the St. Louis Suburban IRA website and in the Newsletter. PARENTAL PERMISSION will be required for all areas of recognition. FIRST PLACE WINNERS in each category will receive a $10.00 gift certificate from Barnes and Noble.
(to be attached to back of each poster)
Student’s Name: ___________________________________
Age:__________ Grade: ______________________
Student’s Address: __________________________________
State:___________________________ Zip:_____________
Sponsor’s Name:____________________________________
Phone#: __________________________________________
Name of School District: ____________________________
School Name: _____________________________________
Address: __________________________________________________
City:___________________________ State:_____________
Zip Code:___________
Local Council Name:__St. Louis Suburban Council IRA ____



(Student’s Name)
to participate in the St. Louis Suburban IRA Poster Contest & for his/her poster to be posted online and featured in the St. Louis Suburban IRA Newsletter.

(Parent/ Guardian Name)
(Parent Signature)

Make Magic Happen One Book at a Time 3.16.16


Making Magic Happen One Book at a Time
Most of us know that learning to read is critical to a child’s success, both in school and in life. But a child without access to books – with no books in the home – won’t have the same success as a child who grows up with plenty of books. Books for STL Kids, formerly First Book-St. Louis, is trying to level the playing field by providing new books to children in need.

Books for STL Kids has been giving away books since 1998. The organization reaches those hard to reach children by looking for organizations, schools and other groups that work with low-income children. These types of organizations are invited to apply for a Book Grant. Those groups that qualify are awarded a dollar amount to spend on the First Book Marketplace – an online bookstore providing new, high quality books at deeply discounted prices. This type of grant allows the group receiving the grant, to pick out the titles and quantities of books that best fit their needs. Books for STL Kids knows that by allowing those closest to the children to choose the books, results in a much higher rate of success for the children in reading the books. All books given are required to go home with the children so they can begin their own in-home library. More than 110,000 new books have been given to disadvantaged children in the greater St. Louis community.

There are still many more children who do not have a book of their own at home. Books for STL Kids works continuously to raise money in order to grant it out to deserving organizations. Efforts to raise funds have included Penny-A-Page (a read-a-thon that works well at elementary schools), gift-wrapping and grant writing. Other events that develop awareness for the organization have included The Largest Book Party in Saint Louis and attendance at various fairs and events put on by other local nonprofit organizations. Books for STL Kids is a 100% volunteer-driven nonprofit and is always looking for new ways to raise funds as well as develop awareness that they are a resource for new books for organizations serving low-income children.
Those with a passion for literacy are always welcome to contact Books for STL Kids whether the interest is in joining the Board, becoming a volunteer or in giving financially. Remember the magic of your first book? Join us in placing books in the hands of low-income children. To give or get involved, please contact the Board Chair, Heather Winsby at BooksforSTLKids@gmail.com. And find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/firstbookSTL.

Farewell to Sara Scroggins 3/16/2016


Farewell to Sara  Scroggins
Betty Porter Walls, Ph.D.
Christmas Day is usually a time for joy and merriment, but in 2015, that special day brought sorrow and sadness for me and International Literacy Association (ILA)/International Reading Association (IRA) members worldwide. Sara I. Scroggins, my personal and professional mentor for more than fifty years was also my friend, my sorority sister in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, my role model, my fellow book club member (Books Among Us), and my IRA colleague. She introduced me to IRA when I was an undergraduate, and by working with her, I became as committed as she was to IRA and the belief that reading is a civil right and that every child must have access to books and quality teachers who know how to teach reading.

Sara had a tremendous impact on my professional life. She was the director of the St. Louis Public Schools Reading Center at which I took coursework for my reading teacher certification. She and I became in numerous literacy projects. We conducted workshops throughout the greater St, Louis area and a longtime member of the IRA passed away. Sara was special; she loved IRA, had served as an elected IRA board member, president of both the former St. Louis City Council and the Missouri State Council (MSC-IRA).