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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
April 13, 2007
DeKalb — Laurie Elish-Piper, professor of literacy education and director of the Northern Illinois University Reading Clinic, was elected this week as president of the College Reading Association.
Elish-Piper will begin her service next year as the organization’s vice president before becoming president-elect in 2009 and president in 2010. Her first duty is to organize the association’s annual conference for November of 2008 in Sarasota, Fla.
As the fourth professor from the NIU College of Education’s Department of Literacy Education to lead the College Reading Association, she views her upcoming responsibilities as “a great opportunity.”
“What’s different about this organization is the emphasis on teacher preparation and the work we do at colleges and universities with regard to reading,” Elish-Piper says. “I would like to see the CRA expand its leadership role as an advocate for policy that supports sound literacy instruction for all students and for literacy teacher education.”
Norm Stahl, chair of the Department of Literacy Education and a past president of CRA, is confident that Elish-Piper will carry on NIU’s proud tradition: Retired professors Jerry Johns and James Walker also held the group’s top job.
Presidency of the CRA also can provide a springboard to other major offices. Johns went on to lead the International Reading Association while Stahl is now president-elect of the National Reading Conference.
“The College Reading Association has emerged into perhaps the strongest organization in the literacy field looking at the role of reading as part of teacher education,” Stahl says. “And from that perspective, given that NIU has a very strong presence in training future reading specialists and coaches along with future teachers who will be teaching reading, this is obviously a wonderful position for Laurie.”
Johns, a 35-year member of the group, calls the CRA “a marvelous entry level for new professionals where mentoring and opportunities for the active exchange of ideas occurs” with seasoned veterans.
“I’m delighted to learn of Laurie’s election,” Johns says. “Her extensive work with other local, state and national reading organizations will be good background for her leadership responsibilities with the College Reading Association.”
Founded in 1958, the international association has four divisions (Adult Reading, Clinical Reading, College Reading and Teacher Education) and four goals.
Elish-Piper, a longtime member who also sits on the board of directors, enjoys the organization’s welcoming arms. “It’s a good place to discuss issues, initiatives and challenges,” she says.
“It’s well-known as a very collegial, collaborative group that is very supportive of new faculty members and graduate students, and I want to continue that kind of work. I was afforded opportunities for leadership even back when I was a grad student,” she adds. “I also hope to expand collaborative research in the organization.”
Indeed, Elish-Piper is among several CRA members who are co-authors of a new book being published next week.
Much of the work and some of the research for “A Declaration of Readers’ Rights: Renewing Our Commitment to Students” (to be released Friday, April 20, by Allyn and Bacon Publishing) took place at CRA meetings.
Co-author Mona Matthews from Georgia State University is one place ahead of Elish-Piper in the CRA leadership cycle. Matthews currently serves as vice president. “I’m very pleased,” Elish-Piper says. “She is a very good friend of mine and a collaborator. She will be my mentor.”
With a well-attended annual conference and a respected journal, “Reading Research and Instruction,” the CRA presidency also will bring further visibility to NIU as a national player in the literacy field.
Professors, students and the children whose teachers are prepared here also will benefit, either from involvement in CRA projects and research or simply through the new knowledge Elish-Piper gains on the job.
She already has chaired the Adult Reading division, served as a guest editor on the CRA Yearbook and remains co-editor of the online journal “Exploring Adult Literacy.”
“I’ll be learning a great deal through these experiences,” she says, “and there will be opportunities on some of the projects to involve my colleagues or our graduate students, who will do work they wouldn’t otherwise have opportunities to engage in.”
Elish-Piper earned her doctorate in reading from the University of Akron, her master’s degree in reading from Purdue University and her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind.
A former elementary and middle school teacher as well as an educational therapist in a psychiatric hospital, she came to NIU in 1995.
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