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

President’s Message: February 2014


Hello Everyone,

As I am writing this message, it is a frigid 2° outside. It is a workday, though, so there will be no “staying in, cozying up under a warm blanket and reading a good book”! I only wish that were true. Sometimes it is a struggle to push ourselves out the door when the weather is cold. However, once we get to our destination, everything seems to work out okay and our day moves along as it normally would (at least in most cases). Why do I mention this scenario? Our next general St. Louis Suburban IRA Council meeting is Thursday, February 6. We would love to see as many of our members as possible at this meeting. It may be cold, but the weather inside will be warm, you will have opportunities to see friends and colleagues, and most importantly, you will receive some outstanding professional learning.

I am pleased that Dr. Nicholas Husbye, Assistant Professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis, will be speaking to our group on integrating technology into literacy. His areas of expertise and research include digital literacy, multimodal instruction, and technology. With Common Core State Standards now in implementation, it will be more important than ever to stay on top of our game concerning the use of technology when it comes to reading and writing instruction. You won’t want to miss his engaging presentation. We will also have our annual poster contest. PLEASE encourage your students K-12 to enter a submission (guidelines are on our website).  We especially would like to see entries from our secondary students. Remember, attendees at the meeting are the judges. Everyone gets to vote on his/her favorite poster!

Finally, one thing we are trying to do at St. Louis Suburban is boost our membership. It’s not about numbers, though. It’s about finding educators, librarians, and community members who are passionate about literacy and ensuring that we are growing future readers and writers. We would like to encourage you to invite a colleague or friend to come with you to our February meeting. Are you friends with your local librarian or school librarian? Invite him or her! OR…reach out to your building principal if you work in a school setting and invite him or her to the meeting. School leaders have the power to make change. We need them in our organization, too. What will your goal be for this meeting? Think about it and we’ll see you February 6!

Mitzi Brammer, Ph.D.


Parents Can Help Support the Common Core Standards in Literacy:February 2014


How Parents Can Help Support Common Core State Standards

By: Stefanie Steffan

Elementary Literacy Facilitator, Rockwood School District

The Common Core State Standards require three shifts in English Language Arts instruction.  School districts have been striving to include these shifts in curriculum, and teachers across the state have been working hard to implement these shifts in their lesson planning and instruction.  Parents can also help at home!

The three instructional shifts associated with the Common Core State Standards are:

1.     Building knowledge through content-rich  nonfiction

2.   Reading, writing,and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational

3.  Regular practice with complex text and its academic language

Here are some simple ways parents can support the instructional shifts:

Shift #1:  Building Knowledge Through Content-Rich Nonfiction

       Children should have a 50/50 balance of fiction and nonfiction in grades K-5. 

        (70/30 in grades 9-12)

       Be sure your children are exposed to a variety of texts.  (Books, magazines, websites, recipes)

 Shift #2:  Reading, Writing and Speaking Grounded in Evidence from Text, both literary and informational

       Talk about text with your children.  Have them go back in the text to find answers to questions.

       Argument vs. Persuasion:  Have your children provide evidence for why they want to do things.

 Shift #3:  Regular Practice with Complex Text & Its Academic Language

       Read higher-level text to your children.  Kids are NEVER too old to be read to!

       Talk about words.

       Be sure your children see you reading.  Talk with them about what you are reading.

 With parents and teachers working together, student achievement is bound to soar!

Poster Contest: February 2014



Kathleen McDonnell

 The St. Louis Suburban IRA will be holding a reading poster contest again this year. Please encourage your students to participate.  The final judging will take place during our February 6, 2014 general meeting.  All members will be asked to participate in the judging. The winners in the four categories will be sent to the MSC/IRA meeting to be judged. This year the MSC/IRA judging did not take place.  I will return those posters at our next general meeting.  Here is the website for further information:  


The theme for this year is “Reading and Technology.”

The rules for the St. Louis Suburban IRA contest and the MSC/IRA contest were made available at the November 19, 2013  general meeting.  If you were unable to attend the meeting look for information on the St. Louis Suburban IRA website.  The information can also be obtained on the MSC/IRA website.


Service Opportunity: We Need Books for Habitat for Humanity: Ferurary 2014






In 2010-2011, St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA donated 225 books to Habitat for Humanity. In 2011-2012, our Council donated 600 books and two new bookcases to Habitat for Humanity.  In 2012-2013, our Council donated over 600 books. We need BOOKS for  a 2013-2014 donation to Habitat for Humanity.  Please bring your donated books to the February 6 council meeting. Thanks to our St. Louis Suburban Council members for donating the gift of literacy.   

Membership Report for St. Louis Suburban IRA: February 2014



Jody Rozbicki, Membership Chairperson

 St. Louis Suburban Council of International Reading Association is one chartered council community out of 1000 plus, throughout 60 countries, around the globe.  International Reading Association’s local councils provide an opportunity for the area’s diverse group of professionals to connect with others who share a passion for literacy, instruction, and student achievement.   IRA encourages professional relationships through the council experience.  Relationship building occurs in a council when members plan and participate in formal and informal learning opportunities for developing leadership skills in literacy.  St. Louis Suburban Council also opens the door for literacy professionals to engage in leadership through a variety of service programs and special book projects for children and families in our own community.  IRA recognizes councils’ efforts in leadership through Honor Council and Show-Me Awards yearly recognition.  St. Louis Suburban Council has been recognized as an Honor Council and Show-Me Award winning Council for many years.

One hundred and seventy literacy professionals recognize the opportunities St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA has to offer, and they have joined in 2013-2014.  We hope you will too. This month Non-Public Educational Services, Inc. sent in 38 private school memberships to St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA.  We thank our NESI council members for their personal promotional touch when they reached out to others to join St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA.

About the St. Louis Suburban Council

·       Members represent more than twenty-five public school districts, many archdiocesan and other parochial and private schools, seven universities, and several textbook and trade book publishers/ distributers.

·       Members include administrators, classroom teachers, librarians, reading specialists, literacy coaches, special education teachers, ESOL teachers, undergraduate students,  graduate students, and university faculty.

·       Educators and administrators who work with students from kindergarten through university levels are represented.

·       With 170 members, this is one of the largest local councils of the International Reading Association of Missouri.

·       Our council has won awards at state and national levels for the quality of our programs and the service we provide to our members and community.

·       We provide material to support family literacy, both locally and internationally.

·       We support international efforts to improve literacy across cultures.

·       We offer a mini-grant of $250-$500 for a member to implement a literacy-focused project in the classroom.

·       We provide networking opportunities for educators throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.

Message from the President: September 2013


                                                              Message from the President

Hello, St. Louis Suburban members and “guests” who may be reading this newsletter. It is my privilege as President to welcome you to a new and challenging school year. No doubt the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the realignment of curriculum, integration of technology in literacy instruction, development of curriculum maps, and increased rigor in both literacy instruction and student performance will continue to be hot topics for us this year.

The executive board met over the summer and discussed many of these issues. We are excited that the program committee has aligned our meetings and professional development offerings around many of these topics. The theme this year for our council is “Literacy for Life: Bringing Together Lifelong Learners.” The Common Core State Standards indicate that we should be preparing our students for life. We chose this theme because we felt that literacy and lifelong learning should not be something on which we focus only with our students. How are WE, as adult learners, also growing as learners?

I invite you to mark your calendars for October 5, 2013 for our first meeting. Our program is a bit different this year. Our first meeting is actually going to be an informational reception immediately following the Literacy for All Conference at Harris Stowe State University.  Have you registered yet for this exciting, information-filled day?  If not, there is information on our website or you can email Dr. Betty Porter Walls (drbpwalls@earthlink.net) or me (mbrammer@ssdmo.org) for registration information.  At this reception, we will be providing helpful information about our council, what it stands for, what it does, and most importantly, how you can get involved. We will also be serving light refreshments and there will be PRIZES for attendees. Who doesn’t like prizes? We encourage each of you to bring a friend or colleague with you to this reception—one who may not be a member. At this reception, you will also be able to renew your membership or rejoin if it has been awhile.

I look forward to seeing you at our reception in October and for the rest of our general meetings this year. I hope your year is productive and filled with reading and writing!

 Mitzi Brammer, Ph.D.


 St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA


Officers and Board of Directors of St. Louis Suburban IRA: 2013-2014




President: Mitzi Brammer, Special School District

President(s) Elect: Mary Eileen Rufkahr, St. Louis Archdiocese

Vice President: Tamara Rhomberg, Zaner-Bloser, National Literacy Consultant

Past President:  Tom Cornell, Webster University, Professor

Treasurer:  Jill Lauman, NESI, Reading Specialist

Recording & Corresponding Secretary:  Mollie Bolton, Special School District,  Administrator

Historian and Publicity: Steve Baybo, Harris-Stowe University, Graduate Student

Membership:  Jody Rozbicki, Ladue School District, Reading Specialist, ESOL Specialist

Marjy Schneider:Bayless School District, Reading Specialist

Communications: Beth Knoedelseder, UMSL, Adjunct Instructor (Newsletter)

Mitzi Brammer, Special School District (Website)

Dan Rocchio, Maryville University, Professor Emeritus, Adjunct professor (Website)


Dr. Sam Bommarito, SLPS Reading & ESOL Program Coordinator, UMSL Adjunct Professor

Marcy Burkemper, Affton School District, Retired Administrator

Sandi Coleman, Affton School District, Retired Reading Specialist

Debra Dickerson, Hazelwood School District, Retired Reading Specialist

Sarah Johnson, Mehlville School District, Director of Remedial Reading

Sandy Kettlekamp, Affton School District, Reading Specialist

Kathleen McDonnell, NESI, Retired Reading Specialist

Leslie McKinstray, Hazelwood School District, Reading Specialist

Diane Sanderson, Triumph Learning Representative

Stephanie Steffan, Rockwood School District, Reading Specialist

Betty Porter Walls, Harris-Stowe State University, Professor




Web Wonders: September 2013



It’s All About Free

Mary-Eileen Rufkahr

We’re back to school, with more than a month behind us (not including the time taken to set up our classrooms, attend meetings, and host open houses). We’ve welcomed a new classroom of eager students and we’re ready to jump start their reading and share our enthusiasm for the printed word. To this generation of students, the printed word isn’t necessarily on paper for many, reading means using a computer, e-reader or smart phone. To utilize these electronic tools in the classroom (or to recommend their use at a student’s home), the following websites can connect you with free children’s books and reference materials with the simple click of your mouse.

The website http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/ features hundreds of classic children’s books that are now in the public domain. You can stream each title“live,” or download for use later. Each book is available in numerous languages and titles include Anne of GreenGables, Pinocchio, The Real Mother Goose and JustSo Stories. 

The University of Pennsylvania hosts an online catalog, similar to public library databases, where you can search for available free online books. Again, you can stream live or download onto an electronic device. Go to: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/.

Project Gutenberg offers over 42,000 free e-books, available either as a download or to read on line. Check out:http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Category:Children%27s_Bookshelf.

At Gobookee, not only can you find trade books, but manuals as well (cookbooks, parenting advice, career help). There are 13 main categories, with several subcategories in each area. Some of the books are only available for purchase, but Gobookee will find comparable, free alternatives as well. Find Gobookee at: http://www.gobookee.net/.

To not only give your students a chance to read quality literature, but offer needy schools a printed version as well, check out Wegivebooks.org.

This website has a great book collection; almost around 167 books at varying reading levels for ages 3-10, with more books keep being added.  Books read by children, their parents, or teachers can then be donated to schools that cannot afford books and supplies. If a child has read 10 books on this site, then Wegivebooks.org will donate ten books to a school in need on behalf of that child.

WeGiveBooks.org was created by the Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation. All of the books available for online reading are children’s picture books appropriate for children through age ten. There is a mix of fiction and nonfiction, a range of authors, and an equal balance between read-alouds and books for independent readers.

Voices from the Library: September 2013



 Lucy Crown

Title: Each Kindness                                                                          

Author: Jaqueline Woodson

Illustrator: E.B. Lewis

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Copyright Date: 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-24652-4

Reading Level: K-3

Of all the Jacqueline Woodson books that I have read, Each Kindness is my absolute favorite. It is a touching story of the lost opportunity to share kindness with others. The story starts with a new girl, Maya, coming to school in old, ragged clothes and a broken shoe strap.  When she sits down in an empty seat next to Chloe, she smiles at Chloe, but her smile is not returned.  Throughout the story, the children in the class ignore Maya’s attempts at friendship and she is often made fun of and ignored by the other children. It isn’t until Maya doesn’t return to school and the teacher does a lesson on kindness, that Chloe realizes that she has lost the opportunity to share a kindness that would, as her teacher put it, “Make the world a little bit better.” It is an unforgettable story of regret and a lesson learned of the importance of kindness and its rippling effect on others.  E.B. Lewis’s illustrations are thoughtful and beautiful and express the feelings of the characters in a way that adds depth and meaning to the story.  I highly recommend this book as a read aloud for a classroom discussion on kindness and friendship.

Membership Update: September 2013


Membership News for St. Louis Suburban IRA

 Jody Rozbicki, Membership Co-Chair

 Marji Schneider, Membership Co-chair

St. Louis Suburban Council of International Reading Association is a true professional learning community with 267 members in 2012-2013.  We are off to a great start this year with 32 members, even before mailing out our first newsletter of the year.   Congratulations to each of you who rushed to send your renewal membership forms this summer, recognizing the benefits of our collegial and professional organization. Diane Sanderson, representative from Triumph Learning, was the first member to renew her membership.

 The Executive Board decided to open the 2013-2014 St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA year with the October 5th, Literacy Conference at Harris Stowe University, followed by a Council reception. We hope you are able to attend the conference, which our Council is co-sponsoring with Harris Stowe University and eight additional co-sponsors. We will enjoy the company of fellow members at our reception and toast an event that is expected to be one of our Council’s best.  Registration information for the October 5th Conference and the reception are in the newsletter and on the website.  Membership forms may be sent with the conference registration forms.