Mary E. Gardner
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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
September 20, 2007
DeKalb — Mary E. Gardner, a reading specialist in the Oregon School District and an instructor in Northern Illinois University’s Department of Literacy Education, has been elected president of the Northern Illinois Reading Council.
Gardner has been a member of the group for two decades and a part of the board of directors for six years; the 1997 master’s degree graduate from NIU has taught courses at her alma mater for seven years.
“NIRC is a wonderful organization, and I’ve participated in its events for a long time,” said Gardner, who is looking forward to the challenge of her year as NIRC president. “Our council has a long history of strong leaders, and quite a reputation to live up to, so I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
The Northern Illinois Reading Council, a branch of the Illinois Reading Council, serves DeKalb, Boone, Ogle, Winnebago and eastern Lee counties.
Its 300 members host a fall conference at Kishwaukee College – “Literacy: Unleashing the Power” is scheduled from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20 – and are co-sponsors of NIU’s Summer Reading Conference. They also are launching “Teachers as Readers” discussion groups this fall in Rockford and Oregon.
“Our mission is to provide support and leadership to educators as they promote and teach lifelong literacy,” Gardner said. “In the world we’re teaching in, of accountability and getting every child caught up, we need organizations like this for the collaboration, for the professional development they offer and for the resources they offer.”
Gardner, named one of three Illinois Reading Council Reading Educators of the Year in 2001, began her 31-year teaching career in a first-grade classroom. After 12 years, she wanted to help “solve the mystery” of children who struggle with reading.
The work has two components: teaching children the skills they need to read and giving them the experiences that make them want to read. “They don’t automatically go together,” she said.
She also stresses to children that literacy is integral in a world where computers are everywhere and information is key.
“I keep telling my fourth-graders that if they cannot read – if they can’t read the information from the computer – that they may not survive,” she said. “They’ve got to have these skills.”
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