A literacy specialist, also called a reading teacher or reading specialist, works with children and adolescents to help them overcome their struggles in reading and reading comprehension, vocabulary and critical thinking. As a literacy specialist, you will find work in elementary, middle and high schools. You’ll work individually with children in one-on-one settings, as well as with content teachers to enhance their curriculum and encourage a supportive, educational environment.
Responsibilities and Duties
A reading specialist does more than help students improve their ability to read. You will assist students in using reading exercises that develop their ability to understand text. You’ll help them learn ways to manage a reading disorder, such as dyslexia, and expand their listening and speaking skills through exercises, games and activities. Literacy specialists also focus on a student’s writing skills and developing their ability to think and write clearly and with purpose. Literacy specialists also provide guidance to teachers and school administrators in selecting and implementing reading programs across multiple grade levels.
To become a literacy specialist you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in a field of education. These degrees include early childhood education, which covers children from birth through age four; elementary education, which spans kindergarten through grade six; or secondary education, which includes grades seven through 12. These programs teach you the theories and pedagogy of education, classroom management and instructional design. A master’s degree in literacy or reading provides a deeper foundation in literacy practices, language and cognitive development, learning and reading disorders, child psychology and integrating literacy into content areas such as social studies, English or math.
Most states require teachers and instructional coordinators, which includes specialty teaching areas such as literary or math, to be certified. Requirements vary by state, but in general, teachers must pass exams in their content or specialty area (e.g., social studies, English, literacy, science) and complete a minimum number of hours of professional development. Many states provide initial certification with provisional or professional certification awarded after the completion of a master’s degree and successful completion of professional development hours. Most states require teachers to obtain a master’s degree within a specific time frame.
Career Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median average salary for an instructional teacher, which includes literacy specialists, was $58,800 in 2010, with the top ten percent averaging $93,000 a year. Jobs in this field will grow by 20 percent by 2020 as an increased focus in made by school districts to improve the effectiveness of their teachers. Instructional coordinators will be necessary to meet these goals.
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