Spring 2018 Presidential Update

The 61st annual Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers (ALER) conference was held in St. Petersburg, Florida. The conference theme “Engaging All Readers through Explorations of Language, Literacy & Culture” was chosen to encourage participants to consider the creative ways that can be used to engage and motivate the diverse range of individuals who make up today’s classrooms. We received 283 conference proposal submissions.

Our attendees came from a wide range of areas of the United States stretching from Maine in the northeast south to Florida west to California and Utah. International attendees included individuals from Canada, Brazil, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Conference participants identified their proposals as being related to the following major interest groups within our organization:

  • Division Number of Proposals Clinical Reading 26
  • College Literacy 30
  • Adult Learning 10
  • Teacher Education 178
  • Did not identify a major interest group 39

This was the second year using the online submission system and the first year using the online review system for all submissions. All proposals were reviewed utilizing the online review system including the division roundtable proposals. The division leaders asked their members to submit their roundtable proposals directly to the online review system and they identified reviewers within their division to review their roundtable proposals.

The online platform that we used for the proposal submissions provided a conference application (app) that participants could use on their phones or tablet devices. The ALER app was installed 211 times on Apple devices and 57 times on Androids. Informal feedback from participants indicated that they preferred the app to hard copies since the app was updated hourly and did not required them to carry a bulky printed program. For those who preferred a printed program, the program chair also provided a hard copy online that could be downloaded and printed.


The Presidential Address titled, “Systems Without a Process: Know What to do and Then Do it Well” was delivered by outgoing President of ALER, Dr. David Paige from Bellarmine University. His researched-based address proposed that many of the school systems in the United States do not have a process in place that promotes reading achievement. His talked offered the audience both barriers and potential solutions to this problem. We thank him for sharing his insights.

David Paige, Outgoing ALER President

We were fortunate to have had three additional invited speakers at the 2017 conference. Two of the speakers, Carmen Agra Deedy and Ibtisam Barakat, were chosen not only for their talent as authors and speakers but also for their message of promoting cultural understanding within our diverse society. The third speaker, Dr. Tom Bean, was invited to share his work on engaging disenfranchised individuals through creative activities. A brief narrative about their individual talks follow. Carmen Agra Deedy Ibtisam Barakat Dr. Tom Bean Carmen Agra Deedy, often referred to as a spirited and feisty Cuban author and storyteller, wasn’t a disappointment. She kicked off our conference as the guest speaker for the Author’s Presentation with a warmth that touched the audience. She moved us with the trials and tribulations of her literacy experiences growing up and memories of her father’s literacy journey as he struggled to become literate. Dr. Tom Bean delivered the Keynote Address, “Reclaiming Creative Literacy Practices,” which highlighted his work with individuals who are often on the fringes of mainstream society. His work challenged all of us to consider the creative activities that can be used to engage the disenfranchised within our community. Ibtisam Barakat’s Awards Breakfast Keynote talk titled, “Reading by Aladdin’s Lamp: The Literacy of Seeing One Another,” proved to be an inspiring and moving conversation on respecting all individuals regardless of nationality, race, religion or traditions. She recited poetry to us, sang to us, captivated us, and inspired us to reach out to one another with common humanity and respect. For those of us who attended, we found her to be a powerful speaker and one we will not soon forget.


               Tom Bean                                 Carmen Deedy                           Ibtisam Barakat


The cultural highlight of this year’s conference was the Friday night event held at the Dali Museum. As always, the Friday night event provides an environment where conference participants can socialize with each other in a more relaxed environment. The venue was a work of art in its own right and whatever else can be said of Salvador Dali’s surrealist paintings, they are certainly evocative in that they challenged the philosophical and aesthetic foundations of modernist painting at that time. A sample of Elsa Schiaparelli’s haute couture collection was also on display, in part, to celebrate the creative relationship between Dali and Elsa. The evening was thought provoking inviting us to step outside of our traditional translations of everyday images.

Saying Thank You and Goodbye to Board Members

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the work and service of longtime Board Member Tim Morrison who has served as the Chair of the College Literacy Division for many years. Vicki Collet, who filled the role of Clinical Chair, will also be missed as she completes her term. Board members Linda Martin and Mary Robbins will also be missed. I thank each of you for your invaluable serve to ALER. Publications I thank the editors of Literacy Research and Instruction, Adriana L. Medina, Paola Pilonleta, S. Michael Putman and Jean Vintinner from the University of North Carolina Charlotte for their continuing efforts to ensure that LRI publishes high quality research manuscripts. I would also like to thank ALER Yearbook editors, Juan J. Araujo and Christi Alexandra Babino at Texas A&M University-Commerce, Nedra Cossa from Armstrong State University and Robin D. Johnson at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Your work is invaluable to our organization. And, thank you to our editors of Literacy News, Valerie J. Robnolt and Joan A. Rhodes at Virginia Commonwealth University. Trying to elicit news from so many individuals in our organization can be a difficult task and I would like to truly thank you for your efforts and your patience.

Publications Committee

The Year Ahead

Please remember to nominate individuals to receive the ALER awards. We would like to acknowledge individuals within our organization who deserve to receive recognition for the work they have done in the field of literacy. Also, please remember to submit your proposals to the 2018 conference in Louisville, Kentucky. We look forward to seeing you there!

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