What Is A Reading Specialist?

Reading SpecialistWhat is a Reading Specialist? The answer to this question today is in stark contrast to the answer that was given several decades ago when reading specialists worked in “pullout programs,” in which struggling readers were taken out of the classroom and taught separately in small groups. The modern reading specialist is a master’s degree level instructional leader and resource person whose work impacts the entire school system or reader community.

The Role of the Reading Specialist

Today’s fast-paced world requires competence in reading to adapt to changes and to function effectively. Early intervention with reading problems is a national priority, and school systems are increasingly hiring reading specialists at the district or school level for prevention as well as remediation of reading problems among students.

According to the International Reading Association, the reading specialist in a modern school is an instructional leader who works with teachers to enhance reading instruction for all students, and who promotes literacy in the entire school. The specialist may conduct assessments to determine student reading levels and assist teachers to implement a quality reading program that addresses weaknesses and accommodates different learning styles. Another role is to provide instruction in professional development sessions to impart new knowledge about reading and to serve as a resource to teachers. The reading professional also creates and coordinates school-wide reading intervention and literacy programs.

Reading specialists may also work with individuals or small groups of students who require a more intense and individualized intervention. The specialist will assess and diagnose them individually and work with parents, teachers and other professionals for needed services and to devise and carry out at-home strategies to help the student.

Another role carried out by reading specialists is to work with adult learners who need help with reading. This role requires a different knowledge and skill set and an awareness of cultural factors that affect language learning.

Educational Requirements for Certification

Most states require licensure or certification for reading specialists. The usual requirements are a masters degree in education with concentration in reading and literacy, two years of teaching experience as a licensed teacher and passing a reading specialist examination. A number of states use the Praxis Reading Specialist Examination offered by Educational Testing Service

Graduate reading specialist programs provide students with both theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the teaching of reading. The programs are usually two years in length with courses such as language development, theories of the reading process, different assessment procedures. research-based instructional practices and interventions in literacy, developing individualized learning plans and establishing literacy programs. The acquired knowledge and skills are applied in actual settings under supervision in a final practicum. There are online as well as on-campus programs.

Teachers who already have an Master’s in Education in General Education or other specialty can complete a certificate program offered by many graduate education institutions to qualify for taking the reading specialist certification examination.

Work Settings

The bulk of professional educators with specialties in reading work in school settings; the majority are employed in elementary schools. They are increasingly being hired in middle and high schools and as administrators and instructional leaders at the district level. Private and commercial schools at the K-12 level or for early childhood and agencies needing remedial reading services also hire reading specialists. These specialists may work with adult learners at reading resource centers, academic tutoring services or reading clinics. More recently, schools and businesses that provide instruction on English as a Second Language are hiring people with reading and language training.

Related Resource: Curriculum Developer

Whatever the setting in which reading specialists work, they bring valuable knowledge and expertise that can help lift the literacy rate of the whole nation to better meet the needs of modern life in an increasingly technological society. Therefore, the question, “What is the reading specialist?” can be answered thus: a professional who can help broaden life prospects for a needy portion of our citizenry.