Open Doors in a Reading Teacher or Reading Specialist Career

reading teacher at storytelling time with young students
reading teacher at storytelling time with young students

Without a mastery of reading skills, students are at a great disadvantage-not just in English class-but in all of their school classes. A reading teacher (also known as a reading specialist) works closely with children to help them achieve reading skills appropriate for their grade level. Reading specialists strive to increase the reading capabilities of all students through school-wide reading programs, literacy materials and resources, and ongoing collaboration with classroom teachers, parents and school administrators.

Job Description

Using a diverse set of strategies and methods, reading teachers provide individualized lessons and the support children need to learn to read and comprehend meaning from printed words.
As a reading specialist, your day-to-day duties might include the following tasks:

  • Conducting assessments to determine student reading levels
  • Creating reading plans to match student ability and learning styles
  • Guiding children through reading and writing activities to help them overcome obstacles to literacy
  • Consulting with parents and teachers to recommend at-home strategies to improve reading skills
  • Working with school librarians to include materials on literacy education
  • Coordinating school-wide reading intervention and literacy programs

Reading Specialists at Work

In general, reading teachers work in classrooms where they help students who are struggling with reading on an individual or group level. They might also work with classes or grades as a whole to present special reading programs or promote particular books or authors.

Many reading teachers work full-time schedules, employed by a school district to manage reading programs and provide services at the elementary, middle or secondary levels. Some districts may also hire part-time reading specialists to cover morning or afternoon teaching sessions at a specific school or set of schools.

Education and Training

If you’ve ever wondered how to become a reading specialist, here are the steps you’ll need to take:

Educational requirements for reading teachers vary from state to state. However, most state school boards require a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in reading and literacy with a focus on specialized reading. Course work in these programs typically covers essential reading specialist information and skills training, such as the following:

  • Components of reading curricula and programs
  • Techniques for teaching reading in the classroom
  • Assessing students’ reading progress
  • Researching and evaluating reading and literacy data
  • Identifying trends and issues in reading research

In addition to your degree, attaining a reading specialist job will also require student teaching experience, a current teaching license and possibly a reading teacher or specialist certification.

Reading Specialist Certification

Similar to the educational requirements for other teachers, reading specialist certification requirements vary from state to state. Check with your state Department of Education to see what the requirements are in your area. If you are looking for a highly transferable, comprehensive certification, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) offers national certification in literacy.

Certification candidates who meet education and experience requirements must submit portfolio entries and complete assessment exercises to demonstrate knowledge in their field. The NBPTS estimates that its certification process can take up to three years to complete.

Because student literacy remains one of the most fundamentally important national education goals, reading teachers have a vitally important role for the future of our nation. Instilling confidence and capability in a child struggling to read and creating programs to expand literacy across a student population make a powerful impact not only on the generation you serve but on the generation to come.

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