Secondary Reading League

Leaders for Literacy in Grades 6-12

Upcoming 2018-19 SRL Events

  • Secondary Reading League's Twitter Chat - November 4, 2018 - 7-8pm
  • 42nd Day of Reading Conference - November 30, 2018 SOLD OUT!
  • Secondary Reading League's Twitter Chat - December 2, 2018 - 7-8pm
  • Spring Book Talk, Lou Malnati’s/Anderson’s Book Store, Naperville – April 17, 2018 Registration information coming February, 2019

Day of Reading SOLD OUT!

The Day of Reading Conference workshop, featuring Cris Tovani, is SOLD OUT and our WAITING LIST IS FULL! Contact Questions regarding the Day of Reading Workshop can be directed to Terry McHugh.

Letter from the President

The countdown to Day of Reading has begun, as we are now only a month away. I have no idea how November has sneaked up on us so fast! Hopefully you and some colleagues are planning on attending Day of Reading together so that you can collaborate in considering how what Cris Tovani shares can apply to your work with your students. If you have yet to attend and participate in a session with Tovani, prepare to be impressed. If you have already had the fortune of experiencing a session with Tovani, well, you are already bracing yourself for the ride and excited about new takeaways that will positively impact your instruction.

Continuing in the vein of professional development, I remain charged from the IL Reading Council conference in Peoria earlier this month. Each year I am in awe of all the magic that is occurring in classrooms across the state that is showcased at IRC, and I am equally thankful that educators are taking the time to prepare and present in nice, neat hour-long packages how they are making a difference in adolescents' lives. This process of sharing effective instructional practices, innovative strategies, high-interest resources and materials, and cleverly-crafted units and assessments permeates further than presenters even know, not only touching the educators in the audience but also potentially their students over multiple years and their colleagues and their colleagues’ students. One small idea gets quite a bit of traction and gains momentum, like the snowball effect turning into something grand.

In keeping with tradition, SRL hosted its own strand room, complete with a wide variety of sessions that centered on one common denominator: advancing literacy grades 6-12 and beyond. I would like to thank all the following for their generous contributions to fellow educators: SRL Past President Mark Levine, April Flood, Jennifer Lippert, Stacie Noisey, Erin Metaxas, Juliet Zabel, Cindi Koudelka, Julie Hoffman, Patti Tylka, and Shadrack Msengi. I was quite impressed with the session “Cultivating a Love of Reading in Self-Proclaimed Non-Readers” presented in the SRL strand room by Emily Boyas, Shannon Valley, Carolyn Wagner, and Laura Stanton from Lake Zurich High Schools They packed the room, getting people out of bed on Friday morning at 8:00 to witness how in reading and English classes--across the department--teachers are implementing Penny Kittle’s model of student choice to increase volume. Even the AP teacher! I would also like to thank Heather Kraus, a fellow doctoral candidate at Judson University, who presented with me “Shoot the Canon: Evolving as Readers and Educators who Engage Scholars with Readable--not Spoon-feedable--Texts. ” Our session, too, served as a call to action for teachers to rethink emphasizing the canon, which only contributes to an aliterate society, and instead expose students to all of the complex and relevant YAL out there so that they want to read not only in school in the time we give them (yes, we should give them time!) but also outside of school and beyond graduation. Schools tout these mission statements that often include “lifelong learners,” but I consider that synonymous with “lifelong readers.” We succeed in that mission only if we encourage student choice, provide time to read, and introduce the best of books out there--not the books written for us or the adults of yesteryear but the stories written for them. I thank Becky Anderson Wilkins of Anderson’s Bookshops for coming with her arsenal against the canon--she is amazing and Anderson’s Bookshops are treasures we should all invest in so that we always have them. I also want to thank Elizabeth Goldsmith-Conley, Tambree Krouse, Leslie Forsman, and Michelle Glatt for their interactive session “Books for Struggling Readers Grades 5-12,” in which they and the audience kept adding to a list of must-have books not only for struggling readers but ALL readers. These four cost me quite a bit of money the next morning though! But my students appreciate it!

It is not too early to think about presenting next year at IRC in the SRL strand room. If you and/or some colleagues have ideas and want to share what you are thinking and would like to brainstorm with me, e-mail me at Once you present, as many of you know, you get addicted. It feels so good to share and, in return, learn in other sessions--trading tricks of the trade.

Lastly, I want to wish a warm welcome to our new SRL Vice President Rachel Lesinski, reading specialist and literacy coach at District 127 Grayslake High School. I am so excited to work with her and all that she offers: an abundance of energy, experience, and ideas. We will all certainly benefit from her participation in the SRL Executive Board.



SRL President

Lake Zurich Presents in SRL Strand Room

Welcome New Members

Thank you to all of our members who have renewed their memberships over the summer. 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.

New members for the months of June, July and August include:

Nicole Brennan, Craig Bryan, Ashley Edwards, Barbara Vines, Shannon Baer, Cheryl Cruikshank-Harris, Jennifer Lancaster, Maggie Nickels, Kelly Roberts, Paige Woolard, Victori Billimack, Kate Eggart, Nora Flynn, Donna Herman, Samia Kaddoura, Kassidy Kaiser, Whitney Knox, Rachel Lesinski-Roscoe, Michelle Montgomery, Jennifer Moors, Carrie Nussbaum, Kathleen Powe, Gina Shook, Dylan Shore.

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

Rachel Lesinski-Roscoe Joins SRL Board

The SRL Board would like to welcome our new Vice President.

Here is a little information about her:

Rachel Lesinski-Roscoe completed her doctoral degree at Northern Illinois University in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Reading and her Master’s degree is in the same area. Rachel's dissertation focused on listening to the struggles of Science teachers and understanding their perspectives on literacy in their discipline. Her Bachelor’s degree is in English and Elementary and Secondary Education. Throughout the coursework, she focused on teaching English Language Learners, teaching developmental reading and writing, adolescent and adult literacy practices and strategies, disciplinary and content area literacy strategies, and scaffolding the canonical and more complex texts often taught in the English Language Arts.

Rachel has 16 years of experience teaching developmental reading and writing at Grayslake Central High School where she works as a reading specialist, Literacy Instructional Coach, and former English teacher. Her reading course is Adolescent Literacy and is a course that develops the literacy skills of students who are striving. She also designed and taught “credit recovery” courses for sophomores who failed Freshman English because a colleague and herself were furious that many students would fail freshmen English and not have a chance to make up that credit until senior year when they would be placed in multiple English classes at one time without support.

It is her passion to work with a diverse groups of students and educators of all ages. Rachel tends to work well with those who learn differently due to processing struggles, life struggles, being diagnosed on the autism spectrum, motivational issues, learning disabilities, cultural differences, and English language barriers.

We are lucky to have her!

Book Clubs for Better Engagement

By: Rachel Lesinski with the assistance of Leigh Cavanaugh, Jennifer Naes, and Emily Leonard

Our proudest moments in teaching have come as part of a collaborative discourse community. Plainly put: it helps to have a buddy. Teaching can be isolating. We think about Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and while we find pure joy in how she is able to put books in the hands of children and steal moments during the school day to get them to read, we are also struck by what is being communicated in between the lines; was she feeling isolated or lonely because other teachers did not see her vision and were unable, at the time, to recognize the beauty in her methods?

We, too, have experienced moments of isolation in our teaching professions. There is too much to do, too many students’ needs to think about, too many lesson plans, professional development expectations, assessments, and meetings, and…

However, those aspects of teaching must take a back seat to the person driving it all! YOU! Within teaching it is critical to find time for two things: 1. Reading and Enjoying Reading 2. Collaborating

We have found that we enjoy reading MOST when we can share the experience with a friend and make it a social event and when we can take the guilt away from doing something for personal reasons by choosing young adult literature that we can then recommend to students. In addition, to make sure that reading is not a CHORE, we like YA because it is lively, starts with the action, and conforms to our time constraints. We have all read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Both novels take a realistic look at teens’ lives as they struggle with racism, violence, prejudice, and change and how our society perpetuates these themes.

Titles like these, and others, like Twilight, we read before they were uber-popular! We read them purely because someone in the group heard about them, we realized that other people were reading them, and we wanted in on the action. Recently, in the book 180 Days, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle note this very same idea – students enjoy book groups and being a part of a group of readers. And we do too!

So, we have a secret mission within our school – read YA books, hang out and talk about them (it is amazing how many issues come up that we didn’t even know we needed to think about), and then get them in the hands of others! Teachers, students, administration, whomever! Spark a reading collaborative community. The size is not important – we started as a group of two and then blossomed to a group of four…two are librarians and we are literacy people. It wasn’t hard to recruit us… But more people are joining us every day!

Our book buddies make us remember how much we love reading and how much we need to collaborate without an agenda. We have the freedom to talk openly without an agenda. There is no pressure or judgement or assessment. We talk and recommend and discuss character struggles and usually end up discussing students’ struggles and our struggles. Sometimes we learn so much about struggle just by sharing a title one of us has read. The nonfiction text The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater comes to mind. As Jen and Rachel were in passing, Rachel saw the book on the counter of the school library and started gushing to Jen about how much more aware she has become of gender fluidity, sexual identity and pronoun usage, and the ways in which society labels and the things that we assume. More than anything, Rachel came to an awareness of how important it is to learn more about all people and not try and place people within a definition or a box. As Barack Obama said in his 2016 Howard University Commencement Speech, “You do you.” Anyway, Jen is going to read The 57 Bus after she finishes The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, a title she acquired from Emily after talking about Russian literature one afternoon. It is the informal moments when the most happens. We have conversations in the hallway during passing periods, on the phone during the drive home, via text and email, and even in whispers at a conference table when we are in the same meeting waiting for it to begin. We, like Donalynn’s students, steal time. And we are better because of it.

Sometimes, we struggle to get into a text and need a buddy who has read it to encourage us to keep going or to give us “permission” to abandon it. Sometimes we explore new genres even though it is difficult and we take that risk because our buddy needs us to. Teaching graphic novels was a struggle until Leigh and Rachel read Stitches: A Memoir by David Small and navigated our lesson plans together, which involved overhauling our entire curriculum from the previous years. In this memoir, Small vividly illustrates the struggles of his childhood and adolescent years in 1950s Detroit. His life is fraught with anger, abandonment, and abuse. He has a complicated mother who is navigating her sexual identity, a workaholic father who is so obsessed with science that he gives David cancer by exposing him to too many xrays, and an abusive brother and grandmother who offer no love or support. It was a necessary addition to our Adolescent Literacy class but we could not have done it alone.

Speaking of struggles, reading science fiction revolving around video games was not a territory that Rachel would have stepped into if not for Jen, Emily, and Leigh who pushed her along during Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. The novel takes a close look at living in a sort of utopia provided by virtual reality. A nod to 1984 ideas, Ready Player One exposes the realities of technology in positive and negative ways while also lending insights into adolescent motivations, emotions, and passions. There is action and adventure and tons of nostalgia regarding video games and gaming systems through the decades. Despite Rachel’s avoidance of gaming, the novel was addicting and she is grateful she had her collaborative community to offer just enough teasers to keep her reading through to the end.

And the lessons we take from all of this apply to our teaching:

  1. Reading can and should be a social experience!

  2. Sometimes reading the same material creates relationships we never would have expected.

  3. Students can work together and sit together and discuss reading, even if they are not reading the same book.

  4. Students can always abandon material after they get to around page 40 and have talked with someone who has read the book and who has provided them with some teasers to try and maintain interest.

  5. Sometimes reading is for fun and does not need a timeline or a readability level – how many times has someone asked you if you read like a 40-year-old or a 22-year-old? And how would you feel if they did?

  6. Time spent on reading should be a part of our class period. Don’t forget to include time to talk about it in a messy, voices overlapping, no-worksheets-to-complete kind of way.

We need books to stay passionate about literacy but also to stay passionate about teaching and learning. Our students need the same.

SRL Grant Turns Students into Filmmakers

By: Cindi Koudelka, 2017 Grant Recipient

It is amazing how a simple grant proposal can turn into a much bigger project that reaches so many students. Last year, I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from SRL to buy equipment and resources needed to add a film component to my ELA classes. Students now have access to a quality camera, boom mike, and a green screen to create book trailers, news broadcasts, short films, commercials, public service announcements and more.

We have turned an empty classroom at my school into a dedicated film studio, and the kids love it. Not only do I use the resources available through the generosity of SRL for my Language Arts classes, but my project-based learning group has taken on the task of creating a weekly news program for our school. Sixth-Eighth graders have learned how to use the equipment, get it put away properly, and edit videos using We Video. Honestly, their work is completely student directed at this point. I handed them the tools and provided a few mini-lessons, and they have taken off! They have gained numerous skills from collaboration and problem-solving to critical digital literacies and Common Core standards.

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Big picture

Preview of Tovani Presentation

Planning for Engagement: Systems and Structures That Keep Learners Learning

Asking students to work for long periods of time is easier said than done. Students who don’t choose to read and write for fun, need systems and structures to support their engagement. During this daylong institute, Cris Tovani will share how she intentionally plans and uses different structures to keep kids from quitting during workshop time. Participants will explore strategy instruction and long-term planning techniques that are tied to text selection and purpose. With the proper systems and structures in place, even the most recalcitrant readers and writers will “dig in” for longer periods of time ensuring growth and improvement.

Day of Reading Sneak Peak at Raffle Prizes

By attending Day of Reading, you will have an opportunity to win a raffle prize.

Annual Membership Updates

Please contact our Membership Chair, Angela Kalat at if you have a change of address, phone, name, or email address. 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!