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.

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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).

READ & FEED Project


The International Literacy Association’s Local Arrangement Committee and Missouri State Council will be continuing their work on the ILA’s Legacy Project – Read & Feed.  St. Louis Suburban Council has joined this effort to put literacy materials in local Title 1 elementary schools in St. Louis County and St. Louis City.


We hope that you will consider being a participant in this Legacy Project that has now extended to three states (Louisiana, Illinois & now Missouri).  St. Louis Suburban Council members will be actively spreading the joy of reading by introducing reading strategies and giving away books to students from selected St. Louis area Title 1 elementary schools.


Our literacy materials for the project have come from the July 2015 ILA Conference exhibitors.  They have donated 6 pallets (each measuring 4ft x 4ft x 4 ft) of new books, videos, teacher strategy books, and literacy kits.  In addition, Conway Elementary School and Ladue Middle School from the Ladue District Schools generously donated a total of 100 boxes of books.






School ___________________________________


** Circle if Retired.

I would like to participate by:

(1) ______ Sorting materials and books at Color Art warehouse facility.  Color Art is available between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm. 

Check available days: __ Mon. __Tues. __Wed.  __Thurs.

(2)  _____ Participating in Read & Feed at times St. Louis Suburban Council is scheduled to work with students from our Title I elementary school.  These times will be scheduled during winter, spring and summer breaks.

Please send or email Volunteer Form to Jody Rozbicki

16735 Highland Summit Dr., Wildwood, MO  63011


Or phone Jody at School 314-983-5520 or

Home #:  636-458-0004



President:  Leslie McKinstray

President-Elect:  Steve Baybo

Vice President:  Open

Past President: Tamara Rhomberg

Treasurer: Jill Lauman

Recording and Corresponding Secretary: Mollie Bolton

Historian & Publicity: Sam Bommarito

Membership:   Jody Rozbicki

Communications/ Website: Dan Rocchio, Mollie Bolton, Sam Bommarito

Newsletter:  Tamara Rhomberg




Sandi Coleman

Sandy Kettelkamp

Betty Porter Walls





President     Tamara Rhomberg, Zaner-Bloser Representative &

MSC President

President-Elect    Leslie McKinstray, Hazelwood School District,

Reading Specialist & Literacy Coach

Vice President      Dr. Betty Porter Walls, Harris-Stowe University,

Professor & MSC Treasurer

Past President     Mary Eileen Rufkahr, St. Louis Archdiocese

Treasurer               Jill Lauman,  SEMO Field Ed. Supervisor

Recording & Corresponding Secretary     Mollie Bolton

Special School District Administrator

Historian & Publicity       Steve Baybo, St. Louis Public Schools,

Humboldt Elementary

Membership   Jody Rozbicki, Ladue School District,

Reading & ESOL Specialist

Communications/ Website    Dan Rocchio,

Maryville University,

Adjunct Professor

Newsletter    Marjy Schneider,

Bayless School District,

Reading Specialist


Sam Bommarito, St. Louis Public Schools,

Retired Reading Specialist

Sandi Coleman, Affton School District,

Retired Reading Specialist

Sandy Kettelkamp, Affton School District,

Gifted Specialist

Kathleen McDonnell, NESI, Retired,

Reading Specialist

Utilizing Video in the Classroom Mary-Eileen Rufkahr




Most of us, of a certain age, remember the thrill of seeing our teacher wheel a movie or film strip projector into our classroom.  The sight of that now outdated technology meant that our lesson for the day was going to be presented differently than it normally was.


Today’s students have been plugged in since birth.  The click-click-click of a filmstrip presentation just won’t cut it.  These students know all about YouTube as a place to see the latest dance craze, friend’s postings and some videos that defy explanation.  However, as a teacher, you can tap into the power the site offers for educational purposes.


As with all educational materials, pre-screening is vital; so is teacher familiarity with the site before using in the classroom.  Once you are comfortable with your own YouTube skills, the site will offer thousands of resources to tap into.


Begin by creating a YouTube playlist as part of student assignments or recommended extra resources.  A playlist puts it all into an easy, well-organized format for student consumption.


For those who instruct at the high school or university level, record class lectures and save them for future viewing.  Students who are absent from class, or need a review, can link onto the lecture for further study.


Video instruction doesn’t begin and end with YouTube.  Many other quality sites exist as well, including:



TeacherTube is similar to YouTube in how it works and what it has to offer, except for being exclusively devoted to educational content. Browse videos by common core standards and individual state standards, and also check out its library of other types of content, like audio and photos.


Neo K-12

Neo K-12 has a large collection of educational videos for K-12 students in a variety of subjects, with an emphasis on science content. The website also includes games, quizzes, and other interactive activities.



Explore.org shares live animal cams so students get a glimpse into nature at work while sitting in the classroom. They also provide a number of pre-recorded educational films.


Zane Education

Zane Education is a resource for subtitled videos, making them especially valuable for any hearing impaired students, but also for any students that learn better when able to combine visual and textual learning.  The subtitles are also useful for our English Language Learners.  Students can access over 260 curriculum topics while improving their reading, literacy and English Language skills.