The Role of the Reading Specialist

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

You might be wondering what a reading specialist is and how s/he relates to other professionals at your school. This lesson gives you insight into this important position.

Reading Specialists

Arlene is a reading specialist at James Elementary School, and she finds that others are often confused about exactly what she does each day. She welcomes the opportunity to clarify her job's role and list of responsibilities. In addition to getting a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE), Arlene pursued a specialization in Reading and Literacy. She completed additional coursework in the area of reading and took extra certification exams. Arlene also completed a second practicum stint with an experienced reading specialist. Arlene is the first to explain how reading specialists sometimes have different roles depending on the school; but, she discovered no matter the location, the job includes similar characteristics. Arlene sees her job in three major categories: student support, curriculum reinforcement, and administrative helper.

Student Support

One of Arlene's most important functions as a reading specialist is providing support to students who are struggling with reading. Each fall, she reviews classroom teachers' assessments, or informative evaluations of students' decoding, fluency and comprehension. In first grade, she works with students using the Reading Recovery program, a program that she has been trained in to help get young students jump-started in their reading, particularly in decoding, or ability to read the words on a particular page. In higher grades, she forms small groups and pulls students out of the classroom for support with decoding and comprehension, or the ability to make sense of text. Arlene works with classroom teachers to make a consistent schedules that enable her to provide support to individual students. She also sits in on classroom instruction to assist struggling students in making sense of the curriculum. When Arlene works with students, she also makes contact with families and assists parents in understanding which strategies help children become stronger readers. Arlene also offers advice to parents about work they can do at home, and she is happy to send home books from her leveled library so that students can practice.

Teacher Support

Another aspect of Arlene's job involves providing support to classroom teachers as they develop literacy and reading curriculum as well as instructional practices. Bi-weekly, Arlene attends grade-level meetings to listen to what teachers are planning for reading and offers insight into how they might make the most of each lesson. Teachers also come to Arlene for advice when they feel reading instruction is not reaching all students, or when they are uncertain of what steps to take next in their reading curriculum. Arlene helps teachers make sure they have the right resources available in their classroom libraries, and she is happy to observe reading lessons and offer constructive feedback based on her expertise in the teaching of reading.

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