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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Web Wonders: Connecting to Authors and Illustrators: April 2015



Mary-Eileen Rufkahr

 How to Connect with Authors and Illustrators!

Students of all ages seem to truly connect with a book when they know more about the author and/or illustrator who created the work. Younger children often don’t realize there is a “real”person who created the story they are enjoying; older students are often amazed that the person who is responsible for the book has had many of the struggles and successes they too have faced in their lives. Visiting an author’s web page provides a whole different dimension to literature appreciation.

Dav Pilkey is known for animal-oriented books including Kat Kong, Dogzilla and Dog Breath. Zany, off-the-wall, outside of the box are only a few of the phrases to describe Pilkey and his writing style. The same goes for his web page at https://pilkey.com/. His “extra crunchy web site of fun” features a biography, games and black line reproducibles.

Author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg has been producing children’s favorites for over a quarter century. His web page features a biography, news on favorite and upcoming books and videos of the author reading and discussing some of his stories. Check out: https://hmhbooks.com/chrisvanallsburg/index.html.

Avi, the pen name of Edward Irving Wortis, is an author of young adult and children’s literature. Avi has tips for young writers, information on Skype visits, readers’ theater scripts and book discussion materials. Visit Avi’s site at https://www.aviwriter.com/index.

Frank Asch the author of the Moonbear and Cardboard Genius series has a colorful, inviting web site for students. Videos of his stories, art work sent in by fans and recipes are only a few of the topics on his web page: https://frankasch.com/. Whether it is the Gilbert the Opossum series for young readers or the Annie Pitts series for older students, Diane de Groat captures the imagination and attention of her audience. Her web page includes teacher materials, a biography and news on upcoming releases. Check out https://www.dianedegroat.com/index.html.

Molly Bang’s work ranges from science for children (Ocean Sunlight) to All of Me,  and A Book of Thanks. Bang has led a rich and full life from volunteering at her daughter’s school to working with UNICEF. Her site offers a comprehensive source of information for both students and teachers. Go to: https://www.mollybang.com/bio.html

Membership News for St. Louis Suburban Council of the International Literacy Association: April 2015



Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director

 St. Louis Suburban Council of International Literacy Association is a true Professional Learning Community with 283 members as of March 30, 2015. Congratulations to our membership for recognizing the benefits of our collegial and professional organization. In the April 2015 newsletter, you will find the St. Louis Suburban Council of ILA membership application form for April 2015 to August 2016. Membership dues may increase in July 2015. This is a good time to update your membership. If you have not yet, please send your membership form ASAP to Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director.TODAY!

Highlights of St. Louis Suburban Council of International Literacy Association

  •  Members represent more than twenty-five public school districts, many archdiocesan and other parochial and private schools, seven universities, and representatives of textbook and trade book publishers/distributers.
  • Members include administrators, classroom teachers, librarians, reading specialists, literacy coaches, special education teachers, ESL teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, and university faculty.
  • Educators and administrators who work with students from kindergarten through university levels are represented.
  • With nearly 283 members, this is one of the largest local councils of the International Literacy Association of Missouri.
  • Our council has won awards at state and national levels for the quality of our programs and the services we provide.
  • 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
  • We provide networking opportunities for educators throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.
  • St. Louis Suburban Council is hosting the July 2015, International Literacy Association Conference

Top 5 Benefits of IRA Membership

  • Receive 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 literacy professionals
  • Discounts on ILA publications and other professional development resources
  • Reduced conference registration rates

Information on ILA membership see: https://www.reading.org



International Literacy Association is Coming to St. Louis In July 2015


International Literacy Association (ILA) Conference
St. Louis, Mo
July 18 – 20, 2015

The International Literacy Association (ILA), formerly known as the International Reading Association (IRA) will hold its annual conference in our City of St. Louis this summer and our St. Louis Suburban Council is the major conference host. Reserve the dates of July 18-20 on your calendar for the ILA. Council member Betty Porter Walls is the general co-chair of the Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) preparing for the conference with LAC co-chairs Jody Rozbicki also from our council and Glenda Nugent from the Mid-Rivers Council. The three of us meet regularly to plan and strategize as we prepare for a monthly phone conference with the conference committee in New Jersey at ILA headquarters. “What do you do?’ someone asked. Our response is that we are the ‘worker bees’ who promote the conference by appearing in general service announcements to be shown nationwide, organizing other LAC members to volunteer during the conference, and helping to promote a Legacy Project by which the conference will leave its literacy imprint on our city. Fortunately we have the counsel of Dolores B. Malcolm, past IRA President, for assistance with questions and plans. Yes, a past IRA president resides in St. Louis!

We are pleased to have more than fifty educators from the St. Louis Public Schools become members of our St. Louis Suburban Council to ensure a St. Louis area wide representation and participation until their council reorganizes. More ILA hands to help are more than welcome.

If you’ve never attended an International Literacy Association, you will be amazed at the resources available, the experts you’ll meet, and the mass of information and free products you will receive. Not often will such an opportunity be available. Just think of the savings you will enjoy when you attend a national professional organization conference as large and as significant as the ILA. The conference is in downtown St. Louis, so plane fare probably won’t be necessary; you can drive. You won’t need a hotel room if you live in the greater St. Louis area or have a friend who’ll let you be a house guest during the conference. The international conference isn’t this close to us very often; please take advantage of this opportunity and the savings.

Did you know that basketball star Shaquille O’Neal and famous actress Octavia Spenser are literacy advocates and authors of children’s literature? They will be speakers at the 2015 ILA Conference and you can read about their reading and literacy contributions in the March/April 2015 issue of Reading Today. An exciting program is planned for the conference and can be reviewed on the ILA website www.reading.org.

We need your help and assistance at the International Literacy Association Conference. Please consider volunteering to greet participants as they arrive at the conference, help with registration, or help with sessions. We are asking for a two-hour commitment from our members. If each of our more than two hundred members would volunteer, we’d have plenty of help. The Volunteer Commitment Form can be found on our local website www.stlsuburbanreading.org and the website for the Missouri State Council of the IRA (MSC-IRA) at www.missouri.org. LAC co-chairperson Glenda Nugent, glenda.nugent@gmail.com, can assist scheduling your volunteer time. You do not need to attend the conference to be a volunteer. You do not have to be an active ILA member to volunteer.

The LAC is also making plans for the “Read and Feed” Legacy Project for the ILA Conference. St. Louis will have a lasting memory of the 2015 Conference with this ‘Read and Feed’ Legacy Project. The “Read and Feed” Legacy Project is about providing books to a Title I school(s) in the St. Louis area which has a feeding program. Books will be given to students for their personal home libraries. Jody Rozbicki, jrozbicki@ladueschools.net is the LAC Co-chair for the Read and Feed Project. More information about the project will be shared with you.


Early Bird registrations at a reduced fee are available for groups of Missouri
educators. There is a deadline for these reduced rates and a certain form must be used. The Early Bird registration form can be found on the websites for the St. Louis Suburban Council and the Missouri State Council. Contact LAC co-chairpersons Betty Porter Walls, drbpwalls@earthlink.net, and/or Glenda Nugent, Glenda.nugent@gmail.com for more information.


The President’s Message: February 2015






For me, February has always been a bright spot in the long, cold, winter months. Even as a child, I looked forward to this “break” from the winter doldrums.

February always seemed like somewhat of a maverick, having only 28 days (and sometimes 29) when all the others were in such lockstep with either 30 or 31.

For a teacher, the educational possibilities are abundant: Black History Month, Dental Health Month, American Heart Month, Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, and Presidents ’ Day.  Wow is all I can say!

Our St. Louis Council is hoping to chase away your winter doldrums with our upcoming meeting on February 18th. We are having a members’ showcase in which many of our colleagues will present mini-seminars on pertinent topics related to literacy. During the evening, you will have an opportunity to attend several of these workshops and come away with some new ideas to implement in your classroom. We also encourage you to bring your students’ posters to be judged for our annual poster contest.

Just as the short month of February packs a great deal into its 28 days, we promise to provide you with a full and satisfying experience at our upcoming meeting. Looking forward to seeing you on the 18th!

Mary Eileen Rufkahr


Content Area Reading and Writing Strategies: February 2015


Content Area Reading and Writing Strategies

By Tamara Jo Rhomberg

“To be literate in content classrooms, students must learn how to use language processes to explore and construct meaning with texts. When students put language to work for them in content classrooms, it helps them to discover, organize, retrieve, and elaborate on what they are learning.” (Richard T. Vacca, Taking the Mystery Out of Content-Area Literacy)

As a result of studies such as that by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, (Thompson, et al., 2012) there has been a focus on the essential role of informational literacy. Hence the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) call for an increase in the amount of informational text read by students at all grade levels. Traditionally, informational text may have referred to textbooks or expository writing, but today informational text is defined as literary nonfiction, including biographies, autobiographies, historical, scientific, and technical texts such as textbooks, news or feature article book reviews, and informational trade books. The challenge of reading and writing in the content area is a daunting task for both students and teachers.

I offer just a few reading and writing strategies that can be readily implemented at any grade level, at any point in the reading/writing process, and adapted to any content area. Key to any of these strategies being successful for students is to actively engage students in the process of learning and using the information in some way which allows the new learning to connect to what the student already knows and understands about the topic.



A brainstorming activity used to activate background knowledge but could also be used as a review strategy. Independently students brainstorm any and all words/concepts related to a concept or topic. (10-12 is a suggested number of entries.) Small groups discuss their word choices and then combine their lists to create categories by sorting their words and providing labels. Through this process, students activate their background knowledge for the concept as well as establish areas of study within the content. As the content is read, it is important to revisit the categories and make additional connections, clarify thinking, and use the words/categories for review.

Alpha Boxes

As a concept/topic is read or discussed, students collect key words relevant to the topic and record them in the appropriate letter box. The alpha boxes can be as simple as the letters of the alphabet listed on paper. Teachers pause at key points to record key words/concepts and have students make connections from what they have read using the listed words. Through the process of connecting a variety of words or phrases, students deepen their understanding of how the words are interrelated.  There have been a number of studies (French, 2004; Leung, 2008) supporting the integration of content area learning and vocabulary as it builds connections between words and concepts resulting in deeper comprehension.

RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic)

RAFT writing provides an opportunity for students to think critically, synthesize information, and to produce a creative form of their analysis. It is used after students have read and studied a topic.  Each student takes on a ROLE or a perspective from the content, identifies a specific AUDIENCE to address in the writing, chooses a FORMAT (a letter, an editorial, an obituary) by which to express the content, and decides on a TOPIC to be covered in the writing project which demonstrates the depth of the student understanding.

I encourage you to try one of these strategies and share your work with St. Louis Suburban members via our website – www.stlsuburbanreading.org.



Check out the Changes at the International Literacy Association: February 2015


New Name for IRA!

“Email Sent to IRA Members”

by Marcie Craig Post (Executive Director of the ILA)

The International Reading Association (IRA) is officially the International Literacy Association (ILA). Over the next few months, you will begin to see and feel the positive changes that come with this evolution, and our dedication to transforming lives through the power of Literacy.

Here are just some of the changes you’ll see right away:
Reading Today Online is now Literacy Daily! The blog features even more practical resources, research, and thought-provoking articles to support the literacy efforts of our global network.
Our website has been updated to reflect our new name, logo, and design. The site will be further enhanced to fully reflect our mission in the first half of 2015.
Registration for the ILA 2015 Conference—themed “Transforming Lives Through Literacy”—is open at ilaconference.org.

And we’re just getting started! We are busy at work on several new initiatives and announcements for the coming months and we look forward to sharing them with you. We’re excited for the road ahead, and we are proud of this significant step we are taking to build upon IRA’s legacy and forge our future as advocates for literacy in the classroom and beyond. We hope you’re excited, too.
From all of us, we want to thank you again for your commitment to literacy and education. We welcome you to the new ILA!

Shared by Mary Eileen Rufkahr, President of St. Louis Suburban Council


IRA Has a New Name: International Literacy Association ( ILA) February 2015


IRA Becomes The International Literacy Association (ILA)

ILA Comes to St. Louis July 2015

Dr. Betty Porter Walls

Educators, particularly members of the International Reading Association (IRA), are excited to welcome the 60th Anniversary of the IRA Convention to St. Louis this summer, July 18-20. One big change! St. Louis will welcome the International Literacy Association (ILA). Marcie Craig Post, Executive Director, announced that as of January 26, 2015, the IRA will officially be known as the ILA. She stated, “We are adding literacy to our name to become the International Literacy Association because literacy is our cause, our passion, and our reason for being. On January 26, we will flip the switch and begin to share our new vision and member experience”.

A few changes will soon be seen:
1. Reading Today Online is now Literacy Daily. The blog features even more practical resources, research and thought provoking articles.

2.  The website has been updated to reflect the new name, logo, and design

3.  Registration for the ILA 2015 Conference – themed “Transforming Lives through Literacy” – is open at ilaconference.org.

Three St. Louis area IRA members are very involved in preparing for the ILA Conference. Dr. Betty Porter Walls, former president and current board member of the St Louis Suburban Council is the chairperson of the Local Arrangements Committee (LAC). Dr. Glenda Nugent, former State President of the Arkansas Council and current member of the Mid-Rivers Council, is the co-chairperson to coordinate activities in surrounding states. Jody Rozbicki, former president and Membership Chairperson of St. Louis Suburban Council, is the co-chairperson of the Legacy Committee. The three co-chairpersons have made several personal service announcements (PSAs) with St. Louis area educators from several districts. These PSAs will hopefully encourage everyone to come to ILA in St. Louis in July.

Volunteers will be needed! Betty, Glenda, and Jody will have volunteer information soon. You must be an IRA member to be eligible to volunteer; that’s one definite qualification

Teachers and administrators from the St. Louis Public Schools will be joining us also as hosts for the conference.

If you’ve always wanted to attend one of the best international professional conferences, this July conference will offer a wonderful opportunity. We definitely want our members to register and attend the International Literacy Association. Registration information can be found at ilaconference.org.


Voices from the Library: February 2015



by Lucy Crown

Title: Cold Snap

Author: Eileen Spinelli

Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf-Random House Children’s Books

Copyright: 2012

Age Range: K-3

ISBN: 978-0-375-85700-3

The first thing I noticed about this book was the cover. You can’t see it in the picture, but the cover sparkles and shimmers from glitter and has a raised feeling when you touch it. It is one of those books that says, “Pick me up and read me!” Being the lover of all things cold and snowy, I knew I had to have this book. The story takes place in Toby Hills, where there is already snow on the ground and a large icicle hanging from the nose of General Toby’s statue, the town’s founder. The newspaper reports that there is a cold snap coming as the book tells the story of the townspeople and the ways that they deal with the cold weather throughout the week. The ending brings the whole town together for a winter surprise of a bonfire, doughnuts, hot cider and maple candy made from snow at the top of T-Bone Hill. The illustrations in the book are so colorful and fun. I am reading this to my Kindergarten students next week and I know that they will love it!

Call for Member Participation! February 2015


Calling all Members!

A great chapter such as the St. Louis Council becomes so much stronger when all of our members are involved in its growth and success. The board of directors of our council is asking all of our members to consider stepping up and volunteering your time and effort in one of the following ways:

Consider being a building representative. All that is required is that you talk up the council’s upcoming meetings and events to your colleagues.

If someone is interested in becoming a member,

  • Provide them with Jody Rozbicki’s contact information (jrozbicki@ladueschools.net), or print a membership application off of our web site.
  • Serve on one of our committees. We have openings on many of our committees, and would welcome your help in some way. Our committees include: awards, nominating, community and family literacy (service projects), membership, communications (newsletter and web-based), poster contest and spring banquet. Each committee is headed by one of our board members, so leadership and guidance will be provided to new committee members.

If you would like to become more actively involved in the St. Louis Suburban Council, please contact Mary Eileen Rufkahr at Merufkahr@aol.com or talk to one of our board members at our next meeting.

President’s Message: Nov. 2014


Recipient of the Honor Council & Show Me Awards
Message from the President


I recently ran across a quote from a Spanish author by the name of Carlos Ruiz Zafon which said, “I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day.” As often happens, sometimes words of wisdom seem to speak directly to you and about your own life.

Literally every book I have ever read in my life, whether one of the “great novels,” a homey cookbook, an instructional manual or a “beach read” has left some type of impression on me that I still carry to this day.

And that’s what good books are supposed to do!

One of the parents at my school and I are both huge fans of author Beverly Cleary. Even though her sons are no longer in my classroom, we still pass each other at dismissal time and various school events. Somehow in the course of our conversation, we always seem to bring up some type of Beverly Cleary reference. I remember the mom saying once, she never eats French fries that she doesn’t think of the passage from Ramona and Her Father that says “Maybe Daddy will take us to the Whopperburger for supper for payday,” she (Ramona) said. A soft, juicy hamburger spiced with relish, French fries crisp on the outside and mealy inside, a little paper cup of cole slaw at the Whopperburger Restaurant were Ramona’s favorite payday treat.” Every fast food restaurant this parent eats at has to pass the “Ramona test” for French fries.

While I am a reader for all seasons, I especially enjoy the fall and winter months. My gardening and outdoor chores are pretty much completed until spring, the days are getting shorter and colder temperatures make staying at home much more preferable. What a perfect opportunity to really make a dent in that stack of new and old, favorite books I have stacked here and there!

With that being said, I do encourage you to put down that great book for one evening in order to join the St. Louis Council for our November meeting featuring Dr. Melia Franklin, Director of English Language Arts at MO DESE. Dr. Franklin is an engaging speaker who interacts with her audience, providing pertinent information for educators teaching at all grade levels. I promise that all those in attendance will come away with new ideas and a feeling of being recharged after hearing Dr. Franklin speak. This meeting would also be the perfect opportunity to bring along a colleague who has yet to attend one of our events.

Until I see you on November 18th at our upcoming meeting, happy reading!

Mary Eileen Rufkahr