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"Realizing a vision for literacy coaching"

Role of a Literacy Coach

The International Reading Association (IRA) defines a literacy coach or a reading coach as a reading specialist who focuses on providing professional development for teachers by giving them the additional support needed to implement various instructional programs and practices. They provide essential leadership for a school’s entire literacy program by helping create and supervise long-term staff development processes that support both the development and implementation of literacy programs over months and years. These individuals need to have experiences that enable them to provide effective professional development for the teachers in their schools.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) prefers the terminology “literacy coach” because it suggests that educators in this role work with teachers to improve instruction in all areas of the language arts – reading, writing, and oral language development. They also assist teachers in the design and teaching of lessons in other content disciplines where students continue to develop and use their literacy skills.

Qualifications of a Literacy Coach

The International Reading Association (IRA) has defined needed preparation for literacy coaches as part of their standards. Standard 5 especially addresses literacy coaches and futher qualifications are embedded in other standards as well. Looking at this source will be helpful to colleges and universities as they prepare for NCATE and other state accreditations.

IRA believes that literacy coaches ought to meet the following qualifications:

  • Previous teaching experience
  • Master’s degree with concentration in reading education
  • A minimum of 24 graduate semester hours in reading and language arts and related courses
  • An additional 6-semester hours of supervised practicum experience.

At times educators chosen to be literacy coaches do not have all of the qualifications suggested by IRA, but do need to be successful teachers who are very knowledgeable about literacy development, curriculum, and instruction.  They may be asked to enroll in continued professional development through their school district, state, or universities in order to continue building their knowledge of literacy, literacy instruction, and literacy coaching.

IRA, NCTE, and the professional associations of several other content areas have developed Standards for MS/HS Literacy Coaches.  These may be found at

Recent Key Resources for Literacy Coaches

(Please also consult the entire LCC library.)

Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporting Learning and Change

by Jennifer Allen

A new literacy coach can learn many tips about fulfilling this role from this highly readable book. Allen shares her experiences as a K-5 literacy coach. She describes how she set up her coaching/resource room, how she managed the many tasks coaches are assigned, and how she schedules her time and handles her budgeting. This is a very practical book. Published in 2006.

Coaching for Balance: How to Meet the Challenges of Literacy Coaching

by Jan Miller Burkins

Burkins has held positions where she has been performing the roles of literacy coach for almost 12 years; she has been a specific building literacy coaching for the past four.  Her book is full of personal anecdotes and advice to literacy coaches.  She is concerned that coaches learn to maintain balance and perspective in the role.  She explains well both the joys of being a coach and how to deal with discouraging times.  Hers is one of the only books to date that discusses the need for coaches to face issues of ethnicity and advocate for culturally relevant teaching.  Published in 2007.
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Differentiated Literacy Coaching: Scaffolding for Student and Teacher Success

by Mary Catherine Moran

Here Moran guides readers to consider: How does one literacy coach meet the highly varied coaching needs of teachers with vastly different levels of experience, ability, and skill? This book helps literacy coaches provide differentiated literacy coaching—coaching at the point of teachers’ needs. Also unique to this book are lesson/activity plans for professional development and the implementation of building-wide literacy initiatives. Published in 2007.

The Effective Literacy Coach: Using Inquiry to Support Teaching & Learning

by Adrian Rodgers & Emily M. Rodgers

This book will be most helpful to literacy coaches who have gotten their feet wet and want to go deeper with their coaching.  Rodgers & Rodgers take the stance that literacy coaches ought to work with teachers in ways that help them to inquire about their teaching. The conceptual ties of this book to Fontas & Pinnell and to Reading Recovery are evident. Published in 2007.

"How Can You Gain the Most from Working with a Literacy Coach? "

by Nancy Shanklin

Advocating for teachers being coached by a literacy coach, this article asks: How do you get the very best out of the literacy coaching experience? Shanklin offers advice to teachers themselves about how to get the greatest benefit from each stage of the coaching process: committing to working with a coach, pre-conferencing, in-classroom observations, debriefing, and follow-through. In Voices from the Middle (2007), Volume 14, Number 4, pages 44-47.

Journal of Language and Literacy Education, Literacy Coaching Special Issue

Entirely dedicated to literacy coaching, this issue provides articles written by various scholars in the field of literacy coaching. Contributed articles speak to timely and pertinent issues surrounding literacy coaching: its historical relevance, professional preparation and continued professional development, research implications, current trends and best practices, and narratives of coaching experiences.  Please visit the LCC Library for links to and summaries of the issue and its feature articles. January 2008.

Lenses on Literacy Coaching: Conceptualizations, Functions, and Outcomes

by Cathy A. Toll

Here in Toll’s third book on literacy coaching, she addresses its more sophisticated aspects. This book discusses the history, influence of policy-making, varying theories, models, and research related to the field of literacy coaching. Published in 2007.

The Literacy Coach: Guiding in the Right Direction

by Enrique A. Puig & Kathy S. Froelich

Careful reading and discussion of this book will move a school or district toward developing and implementing an effective and successful literacy coaching program. The book is short but comprehensive and is an excellent resource for literacy coaches. Published in 2007.

The Literacy Coach: A Key to Improving Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools

by Elizabeth G. Sturtevant

In this report Sturtevant builds a case for middle and high schools working more effectively to increase adolescents' literacy achievement through literacy coaches. According to Sturtevant, because secondary teachers focus largely on content and have generally not been thoroughly trained in adolescent literacy development, literacy coaches are critical to building literacy initiatives at this level. Sturtevant builds a strong case, and also attends to the necessary qualifications of literacy coaches at this level. Published in 2004.

Literacy Coach’s Desk Reference: The Processes and Perspectives for Effective Coaching

by Cathy A. Toll

In this, Toll’s second book on literacy coaching, she expands beyond the basics covered in her first book. Here Toll offers insights into how to handle particular coaching problems, provides wonderful examples of transcribed coaching sessions, and addresses literacy coaches' participation in school literacy improvement initiatives. Published in 2006.
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Literacy Coaching: Developing Effective Teachers through Instructional Dialogue

by Marilyn Duncan

This book helps literacy coaches learn how to dialogue, or improve the quality and effectiveness of their dialogue, with teachers during coaching sessions. The book will be most useful when used with the accompanying CD. Published 2006.

Literacy Coaching: The Essentials

by Katherine Casey

This book contains unique ideas that even the most experienced literacy coach will find useful. In the forward to the book, Alvarado captures well an important feature of this book, "a careful reader of this book will have made a professional colleague of the author." Published in 2006.

Literacy Coaching: A Handbook for School Leaders

by Dale E. Moxley and Rosemarye T. Taylor

This is a useful book for principals new to literacy coaching, as well as beginning literacy coaches or those considering coaching. It gives a reader-friendly overview of the process of literacy coaching and is therefore a great place to start. Published in 2006.

Responsive Literacy Coaching: Tools for Creating and Sustaining Purposeful Change

by Cheryl Dozier

In the forward, Peter Johnston articulates the question this book strives to answer: "How does a coach create the necessary learning space for experienced and inexperienced teachers alike to expand their zones of proximal development and to take the risks necessary for their teaching to grow?" (p.X). Dozier calls this form of coaching responsive, and says that it "honors teachers and learners and their developing understandings” (p. 4). Published in 2006.

Self-Assessment for Middle School and High School Literacy Coaches

Developed by an IRA committee with funding from the Carnegie Corporation, this self-assessment for literacy coaches is designed as a companion to the Standards for Middle and High School Literacy Coaches. Posted to the Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse in 2007.

Tools for Leaders: Indispensable Graphic Organizers, Protocols, and Planning Guidelines for Working and Learning Together 

by Marjorie Larner

Written from a coach's perspective, this workbook is a guide to developing healthy and effective communities of adult learners within schools. Larner articulates that establishing effective professional learning communities in schools improves student achievement in the classroom and beyond. This book will be a valuable resource for literacy coaches responsible for professional development. Uniquely intended for working with adult learners, it is filled with useful tools, activities, protocols, organizers, and lessons. Published in 2007.