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"Realizing a vision for literacy coaching"

Role of a Reading Coach

The International Reading Association (IRA) defines a reading coach or a literacy coach as a reading specialist who focuses on providing professional development for teachers by providing them with 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 supports both the development and implementation of the 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 terminology of “reading coach” has been used extensively in Reading First and is often more associated with coaching at the elementary school level. Educators in this role work most frequently with teachers to improve their reading instruction. Normally, they do not work nearly as much with teachers to improve their writing instruction.

Qualifications of a Reading Coach

The International Reading Association (IRA) believes that reading 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 reading 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 are often expected to enroll in continued professional develop through their school district, state, or universities in order to continue development of their knowledge of reading and reading instruction.

Recent Key Resources for Reading Coaches

 (Please also consult the entire LCC library.) 

Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporting Learning and Change

by Jennifer Allen

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

“Coach” Can Mean Many Things: Five Categories of Literacy Coaches in Reading First

by Theresa Deussen, Tracy Coskie, LeAnne Robinson, and Elizabeth Autio

This highly readable research report gathered, analyzed, and interpreted information from and about Reading First coaches in five western states--Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. The report describes Reading First coaches, and how reading coaching is being practiced in schools today. This piece would serve as strong springboard for discussions between reading coaches, teachers, and administrators who are looking to reflect on their coaching program. It would also be a good resource for those educators considering becoming a reading coach or a literacy coach, and wants to consider what that will, and should, look like in practice. Published June 2007. 

"Coaches Coaching Coaches"

by Jan Miller Burkins and Scott Ritchie

This article is both insightful and straightforward about the complexities of coaching teachers and emphasizes the need for coach-to-coach professional development. Included are excerpts from the authors own coach-to-coach dialogues, and their reflections on how these sessions have contributed to their practices. The article is highly readable, informative, and very interesting. Although the article writes about literacy coaching specifically, because the emphasis on needed supports for coaches resonates across coaching roles, it will be a worthwhile read for reading coaches as well.  In Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online] special issue on literacy coaching (2007). Volume 3, Number 1, pages 32-47. Available at

Differentiated Literacy Coaching: Scaffolding for Student and Teacher Success 

by Mary Catherine Moran

Here Moran guides readers to consider: How does one coach meet the highly varied needs of teachers with vastly different levels of experience, ability, and skill? While Moran uses the term “literacy coaching,” the premise of this book—coaches supporting teachers’ professional and instructional development at their point of need—is equally important for reading coaches. Published in 2007.

The Heart of the Matter: The Coaching Model in America’s Choice Schools

by Susan M. Poglinco, Amy J. Bach, Kate Hovde, Sheila Rosenblum, Marisa Saunders, and Jonathan A. Supovitz

This research study is repeatedly referenced in the current literature for literacy coaches and reading coaches. It describes the model for a coaching program intended for America's Choice schools and then contrasts the planned design with what actually occurred. The study focused on the role of coaches and their work to help teachers implement Reading and Writing Workshops, not on whether students' achievement scores improved. From reading this report, one learns much about designing coaching programs and potential challenges to anticipate. This report is well worth taking the time to read, digest, and discuss with others as one is designing a coaching program, or trying to improve an existing program. Please see the LCC library for a summary review and a direct link to the study. Published in May 2003. 

The Literacy Coach’s Handbook: A Guide to Research-Based Practice

by Sharon Walpole & Michael C. McKenna

This book is most helpful to literacy coaches and reading coaches, K-3, who are helping schools to implement Reading First and/or core reading programs. The book overviews the concept of school-wide reading programs based upon SBRR and the five components of reading. It illustrates use of formative assessment to guide instruction with DIBELS as the exemplar assessment. Published in 2004.

"Making Instructional Decisions Based on Data: What, How, and Why"

by Kouider Mokhtari, Catherine A.  Rosemary, and Patricia A. Edwards

This article presents and provides guidelines for implementing a framework, called the Data Analysis Framework, intended to support schools in organizing, analyzing, and using various sources of data for instructional planning. Ultimately, this article will be helpful for reading coaches seeking support around how to analyze and use data to improve student achievement. In The Reading Teacher (2007), 61(4), 354-359.

"Moving Forward: The Reading Specialist as Literacy Coach"

by Michael L. Shaw, William E. Smith, Barbara J. Chessler, and Lynn Romero

Today’s reading coaches and literacy coaches must have more specialized training than ever before. They need to be able to effectively address student reading difficulties, skillfully provide instructional guidance to teachers, and execute professional development experiences for teachers. This article discusses the changes required of reading specialists as they assume the roles of reading coaches and literacy coaches. In Reading Today (2005, June), 22(6), 6.

The Reading Coach: A How-to Manual for Success

by Jan Hasbrouck and Carolyn Denton 

In this book, Hasbrouck and Denton compile and articulate the research and literature on best practices in reading instruction. This is a good book for reading coaches in Reading First schools or other schools where there is strong emphasis on the five components of reading and/or response to intervention. Published in 2005.

Reading Specialists and Literacy Coaches in the Real World

by MaryEllen Vogt and Brenda A. Shearer

This book contains excellent information for reading coaches as well as literacy coaches and reading specialists. Each chapter is dedicated entirely to one role fulfilled by reading coaches, so coaches can gather valuable information on how to effectively perform these roles. Vogt and Shearer also emphasize working with ELL students and the importance of validating children’s cultural backgrounds for literacy learning. Recommended book choice for coaches’ study group. Published in 2007.

Understanding and Implementing Reading First Initiatives: The Changing Role of Administrators

by Carrice Cummins

This highly readable book takes a thoughtful, balanced approach to Reading First. One comes away from the book with a better vision of the potential of Reading First to positively impact the literacy learning of children who fall behind in the early grades. The title of the book suggests that it is written for administrators, but other teachers, reading specialists, and reading coaches will benefit, too. Published in 2006.

"What am I Supposed to Do All Day? Three Big Ideas for the Reading Coach"

by Janice A. Dole and Rebecca Donaldson

In this article, Dole provides clear responsibilities and roles for the reading coach and emphasizes that the reading coach work directly with teachers in the classroom to improve student achievement. Dole offers three big ideas for reading coaches struggling to maintain focus. A reading coach's first duty is to teachers, students, and reading instruction. The second is to be in the classroom, collaborate with teachers, offer assistance as needed, and model new skills for teachers. Third, the reading coach needs to establish him or herself as someone who can effectively support reading instruction in order to be viewed by teachers as a valuable asset. In The Reading Teacher (2006), 59, 486-488.