previous Home
"Realizing a vision for literacy coaching"

Role of a Reading Specialist

The International Reading Association (IRA) defines a reading specialist as a teacher for students experiencing reading difficulties, as a literacy or reading coach, or as a supervisor or coordinator of reading/literacy. Many reading specialists work solely with children or adolescents. Others hold positions where they divide their time between working with children or adolescents as a reading specialist and working with teachers as a literacy coach or a reading coach.

Qualifications of a Reading Specialist

The following qualifications for reading specialists are taken from the Standards of the International Reading Association (IRA). 

Category III: Reading Specialist

Works at the early childhood, elementary, middle, secondary, and/or or adult levels.

Fulfills a number of responsibilities and many have a specific focus that further defines their duties. For example, a reading specialist can serve as a teacher for students experiencing reading difficulties; as a literacy or reading coach; or as a supervisor or coordinator of reading/literacy. The reading specialist must be prepared to fulfill the duties of all three of these:

  • A reading intervention teacher is a reading specialist who provides intensive instruction to struggling readers. Such instruction may be provided either within or outside the students’ classrooms.
  • A reading coach or a literacy coach is 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 the school’s entire literacy program by helping create and supervise a long-term staff development process that supports both the development and implementation of the literacy program over months and years. These individuals need to have experiences that enable them to provide effective professional development for the teachers in their schools.
  • A reading supervisor or reading coordinator is a reading specialist who is responsible for developing, leading, and evaluating a school reading program, from kindergarten through grade 12. They may assume some of the same responsibilities as the literacy coach, but in addition have responsibilities that require them to work more with systematic change at the school level. These individuals need to have experiences that enable them to work effectively as an administrator and to be able to develop and lead effective professional development programs.

May include these additional responsibilities:

  • Serves as a resource in the area of reading for paraprofessionals, teachers, administrators, and the community.
  • Works cooperatively and collaboratively with other professionals in planning programs to meet the needs of diverse populations of learners.
  • Provides professional development opportunities at the local and state levels.
  • Provides leadership in student advocacy.

It is expected that the reading specialist will 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.

Recent Key Resources for Reading Specialists

(Please also consult the entire LCC library.)

"A Road Map for Reading Specialists Entering Schools without Exemplary Reading Programs"

by Alfred W. Tatum

In this article, Tatum discusses how to be an effective reading specialist when entering into schools without strong reading programs. He stresses flexibility in strategies and methods. His roadmap is based upon a growing body of knowledge about reading specialists and effective literacy instruction. In The Reading Teacher, 58, 28-39. 

"The Dual Role of the Urban Reading Specialist"

by Diane Lapp , Douglas Fisher , James Flood , Nancy Frey

The authors of this article have developed a university/school district partnership to increase student literacy and provide coaching experiences for reading specialists. The reading specialists spend about 40% of their time tutoring and working with struggling readers in the classroom, about 20% of their time having ongoing conversations with teachers, and about 10% of their time demonstrating lessons for teachers. Additionally, the reading specialists coordinate professional development sessions, and facilitate a professional book study group. A list of these books is provided at the end of the article. In National Staff Development Council, 24(2), 33-36.

"Moving Forward: The Reading Specialist as Literacy Coach"

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

There have been several changes in qualifications for reading specialists. Reading specialists today require more specialized training for addressing reading difficulties and the skills to effectively guide teachers’ professional growth. This article addresses how reading specialists who have become reading coaches should support teachers, collaborate with administrators, and promote the overall literacy achievement of the school. In Reading Today, 22(6), 6. Please visit the LCC Library for a downloadable version.

"Preparing Reading Specialists to be Literacy Coaches: Principles, Practices, Possibilities"

by Michael L. Shaw

This article details the rationale, design, principles, practices, and experiences of the literacy coaching preparation program implemented at St. Thomas Aquinas. It is a must-read for anyone developing or reflecting upon an educational coaching program, and reading specialists assuming coaching positions. Furthermore, it provides a framework with which administrators can begin to consider how to better prepare and support the coaches in their buildings and districts. In Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 3(1), 6-17. Please visit the LCC Library for a printable link.

The Reading Specialist: Leadership for the Classroom, School, and Community

by Rita Bean

In this book Bean bridges the gap between reading specialists and the newer concept of literacy coaches. The author understands that many reading specialists are urged to become reading coaches, and that some reading specialists will fill dual roles as both specialist and coach. This book offers support to reading specialists who are taking on coaching roles. Published 2004. 

Reading Specialists and Literacy Coaches in the Real World

by MaryEllen Vogt and Brenda A. Shearer

This book contains excellent information for reading specialists and reading coaches. Each chapter is dedicated entirely to one role fulfilled by reading specialists, literacy coaches, or reading coaches, so they  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 study groups. Published in 2007.