Doctoral Students' Study Supports Governor's Reading Initiative; Conference Scheduled

May 30, 2017

Authors Ellin Oliver Keene, left, and Penny Kittle will give keynote addresses at the Lift Literacy Conference on June 1 at Kirksey Middle School in Rogers.
Authors Ellin Oliver Keene, left, and Penny Kittle will give keynote addresses at the Lift Literacy Conference on June 1 at Kirksey Middle School in Rogers.

In January 2017, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced R.I.S.E. Arkansas (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence), a statewide reading campaign to emphasize the importance of reading in homes, schools and communities. The University of Arkansas program in literacy studies and the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project have supported this initiative through research and outreach to teachers in the area.

Five doctoral students in literacy studies in the College of Education and Health Professions conducted the RISE Expert Study. The students identified eight internationally known literacy scholars who represented a range of expertise relevant to the RISE initiative. They surveyed and interviewed these experts to provide feedback about the RISE initiative. Their feedback includes agreement with many of the initiative's key statements, cautions and suggestions about achieving the goals of RISE Arkansas.

"We hope that the insights provided by these renowned scholars will prove helpful to the education community as we support the governor's interest in enhancing literacy in the state," said Vicki Collet, who is guiding the study. Collet is an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction and associate director of the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project.

The RISE Expert Study's findings support the Arkansas Department of Education's focus on phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency in early reading instruction, suggesting, however, that motivation and engagement are key components and that the needs of individual students are ultimately important in instructional decision-making.

Initial findings of the RISE Expert Study will be shared at the upcoming Lift Literacy Conference for teachers on June 1 at Kirksey Middle School in Rogers. This professional learning experience for teachers, sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project, features keynote speakers Penny Kittle, author of Write Beside Them and Book Love, and Ellin Oliver Keene, author of Mosaic of Thought and To Understand and co-editor of the series, Not This, But That. Northwest Arkansas Writing Project teacher-consultants will lead breakout sessions on literacy topics for K-12 teachers.

For additional information about the RISE Expert Study or the Lift Literacy Conference, contact Collet at

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