For literacy professionals, Texas was the place to be last week—the Lone Star State hosted both the International Reading Association’s (IRA) and the Texas Library Association’s (TLA) annual conferences. The back-to-back events drew legions of teachers and librarians for days of workshops, instruction, debate, panels, and author signings—and plenty of after-hours opportunities to chat with colleagues.
The fun began in San Antonio at IRA on April 19 with approximately 10,000 registrants from 48 countries. Attendees packed sessions including those featuring authors Rick Riordan, Mo Willems, and Andrea Pinkney, and educators Richard Allington, Lucy Calkins, and Nell Duke. As expected, the Common Core State Standards were a major strand of the conference. While more than a few of last year’s meetings were devoted to analyzing the standards, this year’s discussions centered on implementation and best practices. But the initiative wasn’t the only conversation in town, conference goers also flocked to illuminating workshops on summer reading, technology, nonfiction, diversity, and serving the underprivileged.
The Texas Library Association celebrated its 100th annual conference in Fort Worth, “Promoting Our Values, Proving Our Worth,” with sessions devoted to the future of the librarianship and storytelling to 21st-century learning and teen book festivals. Technology topics were in clear evidence featuring librarians from around the country: Joyce Kasman Valenza on “The Flipping Librarian”; Stacy Brown on “Bytes of Technology”; Buffy Hamilton on “Transliteracy and the 21st-Century Learner”; SLJ Cool Tools columnist Richard Byrne on “Free Technology for Teachers”; Carolyn Foote on“iPads and School Libraries”; Barbara Stripling on “Digital Citizenship and E-Rate”; and dozens of other presenters discussing everything from social media to apps.
Writers, too, drew crowds. The prolific author of adult, YA, and children’s novels, and comics, Neil Gaiman; author, funnyman, and relentless promoter of reading (and listening), Jon Scieszka; and actor and author and “retired soldier” José Rene (J.R.) Martinez were just a few of the authors who spoke to adoring fans. By the end of the TLA conference, there was no question that librarians had demonstrated their worth as technology leaders, readers’ advisors, reference gurus—and some might add, visionaries.
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