Secondary Reading League

Leaders for Literacy in Grades 6-12

Upcoming 2018-19 SRL Events

  • Spring Book Talk, Lou Malnati’s/Anderson’s Book Store, Naperville – April 17, 2018 Registration information coming February, 2019.
  • Illinois Reads Book Festival, hosted by Waukegan School District, Waukegan High School, March 16, 2019, 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

42nd Day of Reading Conference A Resounding Success

Professional development. As teachers we all know the importance of growing professionally -- of continually learning and refining our practice. But when it comes to professional development opportunities, they can often be a disappointment, not worth the time it takes to plan for a substitute or the time it will take to make up the tasks missed while out. The Day of Reading, however, never falls into that category. DOR is one workshop where teachers can expect quality learning experiences to occur. And when Cris Tovani headlines, the learning is guaranteed.

I’ve had the opportunity to see Cris on several occasions and she never disappoints. My first experience with Cris was at DOR several years ago, and I’ve followed her work closely ever since, reading all her books, incorporating her strategies with students in my classroom and reading intervention groups, and now sharing her expertise on instruction with teachers as a literacy coach. As a current practitioner, Cris’s ideas are practical...and, they work.

From this year’s DOR, several ideas on student engagement resonated with me. Students cannot learn if they are not engaged. We can throw all kinds of fancy lessons and technology their way, but if they don’t care and if they are not the ones doing the work, they will not learn. As teachers, we know this; but, we often fail our students by considering only cognitive engagement. Students must also engage emotionally and behaviorally in their education. They have to care about their learning and have the tools and desire to learn. Reaching each students in all three realms is our challenge.

To that end, I recall some poignant quotes from Tovani that will guide my coaching conversations with colleagues:

1. Provoke kids to read, write, and think -- ​Provocation involves getting kids emotionally​involved so much so that their behaviors support their learning. We must look for ways to connect their learning and critical thinking to what matters to them; And, to show them that the ability to read, write, and think gives them power in this world.

2. Know your why​-- Know why you do what you do, and be able to articulate it. Stay abreast of research and be ready to defend your instructional decisions; but also, know why what you’re doing is worth the time and trials you put into it.

3. Give the students a reason/a purpose ​-- If you know why what you’re doing is important, make sure the students know why they are doing it, too; this leads to engagement and engagement leads to learning.

4. Whoever’s doing the reading, writing, and thinking is getting smarter --When the students are doing the work, they are engaged... when they are engaged, they are learning.

5. Coverage does not equal learning -- ​It’s about planning -- plan what your students will do, not just the moves you’ll make. Plan little makes and big makes throughout a lesson or unit. Give students multiple ways to show their learning. Covering all the units in your curriculum does not mean students walk away with that knowledge; the moves they make during the unit lead to knowledge attainment.

After DOR this year, I add these five to my growing list of Tovani Tenets that guide my professional life.

Kim Hollis

Geneva Middle School South

Reading specialist

Day of Reading Memorable Moments

“Tovani reminded me that every child has a voice, and it is not my job to give it to them; my job is to provide avenues for them to develop and express it. It was a much needed refresher.”

-Brian Johnson- Waukegan High School- Reading Teacher


“I attended Day of Reading because I'm always looking for more ways to help struggling readers. I'm excited to implement Cris Tovani's ideas for engaging students in reading and learning.”

-Jack LaBelle-Grayslake North High School – Reading Specialist and Interventionist


“Adolescent literacy is a unique beast, and Tovani is the beast tamer. I am such a fan of Cris; every time I see her or read her books, I grow as an educator. She engages us in the same processes she engages students with and we learn by doing. As an instructional coach, I will take back her structures for engagement and apply these to the varying work I’m doing with teachers across content areas. The structures align with the work we are doing creating inquiry-based learning within our middle schools.”

-Kim Hollis - Literacy Specialist/Coach – Geneva Middle School


“Day of Reading is a really great event. I like the workshop style of the event and I always enjoy learning new ideas about how to develop objectives and engaging lessons.”


“I enjoy meeting and talking with educators of literacy because it inspires me and reminds me that we have the most important job of all.”


“Tovani is a master of planning and I realized that having common anchor texts along with some choice is beneficial for student learning as well as teacher planning.”


"Going to conferences and interacting both with the presenters and other colleagues I feel is the best form of professional development. Cris Tovani gave very relevant and applicable strategies not only for instruction but also for planning curriculum. I immediately thought of ideas that I can implement in my classroom but also share to with my colleagues to help them develop as professionals."

- Aaron Lewis, Social Studies Teacher, Metea Valley H.S.

Barb Chrz White awarded SRL’s Lifetime Achievement Award

This year’s Day of Reading Conference included a celebration of the Secondary Reading League’s 50th anniversary. One of the highlights of the day’s events was the awarding of SRL’s Lifetime Achievement Award to long time DOR Chairperson Barb Chrz-White.

Barb has been a member of SRL since going back to the early 1980s, marking 30 years of continuous membership. Her contributions to SRL and the Illinois Reading Council are numerous. For years, Barb has been the friendly face that has coordinated registration at the Illinois Reading Council Conference. When the International Reading Association Conference came to Chicago several years back, they had the good sense to leverage Barbs’ experience and network of contacts throughout the state to help provide a well organized national convention. Whether identifying adolescent literacy needs, promoting YA literature, advocating for the importance of adolescent literacy issues, or promoting our professional organization, Barb’s contributions have been many.

But without question, Barb’s most significant contributions have been as the Chairperson of the Day for Reading Conference. For a number of years in the late 1980s, she chaired the DOR Committee with her husband, Bob White. Then in 2002, Barb almost single handedly resurrected the dormant DOR conference and has chaired the event since. For the next 16 years, Barb has led a team of SRL members in planning, promoting and hosting an amazing professional learning experience. She has brought some of the biggest names in literacy and the most current, compelling YA authors to the Day of Reading.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was created by the Secondary Reading League Executive Board in 2017 as a means of recognizing those individuals that have made significant contributions to the success of the Secondary Reading League.

The Secondary Reading League thanks Barb for all her contributions to SRL over the years and congratulated her on her Lifetime Achievement Award.

Big picture

Special Thank You to our Day of Reading Committee Retirees

Big picture

The Secondary Reading League recognized the contributions of three Day of Reading Steering Committee members that retired upon completion of this year’s Day of Reading Conference. Barb White, Liz Strejcek and Ellen Levy (pictured l to r) contributed a combined 50-plus years of service to making the Day of Reading the premier event that it is. Each was recognized by the SRL Executive Board for their tremendous service.

Welcome to New Members

Thank you to all of our members who have renewed their memberships. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. We value all contributions to Secondary Reading League, and memberships make up the lifeblood of our organization. Your involvement is extremely important to us and very much appreciated.

Welcome to our new members. We look forward to forming a partnership with you in promoting adolescent literacy. Thank you for your support!

Below is a list of members that have renewed or joined in September, October, November, and December. Use this list as proof of membership for a Domain 4 artifact.

If you have any questions regarding membership, please contact Angel Kalat at

Great Instructional Ideas from SRL Members

This edition’s idea comes to us from SRL member Brian Johnson from Waukegan High School as he shares how he builds his classroom library.

“One thing I have done to build my library for as cheap as possible is go to Library sales. They almost always have teacher discounts, and can be REALLY cheap. In November, I paid $4 for over 75 books (that I chose) at the Arlington Heights Library.

“I use this website, which shows all of the library sales in IL, then I find the ones that are close.

“I am planning on going to the Mt. Prospect and Mundelein sales this weekend, and Wheeling has a sale in January.”

Brian adds a few tips for people who want to try this:

  • Bring your teacher ID. Check and see which sales have teacher discounts. Some do; some don't.
  • Set a budget before going. You don't want to break the bank by getting carried away!
  • Be picky: avoid books with annotation marks, or damaged binding. They don't usually last long in a class library.
  • Be patient: Make sure you aren't in a hurry. Give yourself ample time to find good books, in good quality. If you only find a few good books at one sale, plan to visit another sale before you get desperate and start grabbing whatever you can find.

Brian Johnson's classroom library.

Big picture

2019 Illinois Reads Book Festival--SAVE THE DATE!

Big picture
The Secondary Reading League is a proud sponsor of the 2019 Illinois Reads Book Festival. We hope you will join us for this amazing celebration of literacy, at Waukegan High School on Saturday, March 16, 2019. You can download a SAVE THE DATE Flyer (in English or Spanish) below. More details about Illinois Reads 2019 will be included in future SRL Newsletters.

You can also visit the Illinois Reads Book Festival--Waukegan web site.

Annual Membership Updates

Please contact our Membership Chair, Angel Kalat at if you have a change of address, phone, name, or email address. Please check the spelling of your name on the membership list to make sure that it is correct. We want to keep our information as current as possible. Some school district emails associate the Smore program as spam. You may want to consider changing your email to a personal address. Thank you!