Iowa Reading Association 2013 Spring Newsletter

Presidents Column
Greetings from your 2012-2013 Iowa Reading President
By Tony Pieper

As I write this article in late January, the BCLUW school district where I teach has already had four days of school canceled because of snow, high winds, and freezing rain.  To say that I am ready for spring would be a bit of an understatement!
According to the Merriam Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary found in my middle school classroom, spring is “a time or season of growth or development.” With the start of a new year and spring right around the corner, many people find themselves making resolutions for the coming year.  New Year resolutions often involve a desire to improve our physical health and appearance or a desire to improve our relationships with family and friends.  However, I encourage you to take stock of your professional life and to assess if there are some changes in order.
I certainly hope that your membership in the Iowa Reading Association and your local reading council is an important facet of your professional life.  As stated in the Iowa Reading Association bylaws, the purpose of the Iowa Reading Association shall be to:
  1. serve as a professional organization concerned about literacy;
  2. stimulate and promote the study of literacy at all educational levels;
  3. disseminate information of investigations and practices;
  4. maintain an awareness of the impact of literacy;
  5. advise and monitor teacher-training programs;
  6. promote mutual understanding and cooperation among educators; and
  7. promote a level of reading proficiency among all people commensurate with each individual’s unique capacity.
Notice that each one of those purposes begins with a verb.  As I often remind my students, verbs are words that express action or state of being. But go back and take a second look at the underlined verbs above.  What kind of verbs are they? Clearly they are “action” verbs, and they should remind us that we should not be content just “being” an Iowa Reading Association member.  Those words are meant to serve as a call to “action.”
So now is the time for some self-assessment.  What kind of local council or Iowa Reading Association member have you been lately?  Have you allowed yourself to become content merely belonging to these organizations without really doing anything to “serve”, “stimulate”, “promote”, “disseminate”, “maintain”, “advise”, or “monitor” them? 
If you are not a retired teacher or full-time college student, your membership class within the Iowa Reading Association is considered “active.”  Now is the time to live up to that label.  How can you become more active?  Could you be better about attending your local council meetings?  Could you encourage your teaching colleagues to join your local council and offer to drive them to the meetings?  Could you volunteer to help mentor a new council member? Could you find ways to take an active part in your local council’s projects?  Could you volunteer to serve as a local council officer?  Could you volunteer to serve as a state officer?
You just need a desire to grow and the initiative to get started.  Please do your part to be more than a paper-member within your local council and our Iowa Reading Association.

Doug Fisher Coming to the 2013 Reading Conference
By Wendy Hammrich, 2013 Conference Chair
It is definitely winter weather outside but since it’s February we are starting to think spring.  I, however, am thinking summer and the fun we are going to have at our annual conference scheduled for June 25th and 26th in Ames, Iowa.  If any of you have looked at our website you will know we have some wonderful people coming this year.
The 2 Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, will be here on June 25th along with Peter Johnston.  June 26th will connect us with Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Barry Lane, and now we are also excited about Doug Fisher joining our crew.
For those of you not familiar with Doug Fisher’s work let me say you are in for a real treat.  Dr. Fisher is a Professor of Education at San Diego State University and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College.  He is the recipient of an International Reading Association Celebrate Literacy Award, the Farmer award for excellence in writing from the National Council of Teachers of English, as well as a Christa McAuliffe award for excellence in teacher education.
He has published numerous articles on reading and literacy, differentiated instruction, and curriculum design as well as books, such as Checking for Understanding:  Formative Assessments for Your Classroom, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, Enhancing RTI:  How to Ensure Success with Effective Classroom Instruction and Intervention and In a Reading State of Mind.  Talk about help with implementing Iowa Core!!  I don’t think you need to look much further.
So mark your calendars and send in your registrations for our summer conference.  Check our website, for even more information as you Tune Into Reading on June 25th and 26th!!

Council Corner

By Deb Mortensen, Iowa Reading Vice President and
Member of Quint County Reading Council

The deadline for submitting this article is Groundhog Day and as chair of the Long Range Planning committee, I feel like that groundhog.  Our committee has had several ideas to pursue “during our long winter’s nap,” regarding the future of the Iowa Reading Association. Now, it is time to “wake up” and act on these issues.
The biggest one is the future of Zone Directors and the zone structure. We have had 9 zones in our state for a number of years. Those zones have councils and those councils have members. Each zone is represented on the state board by a Zone Director (Do you know what zone you live in?). Currently, the zone directors report at each board meeting (either through e-mail or in person) the activities of their councils. Some zones have few members (the smallest is 2) and others have many members (the largest is 209). Perhaps we will have to rezone our state to accommodate those active members.
Our membership has decreased so our revenue has as well. Did you know there is a “State only” membership option, if you live in an area that does not have a local council? Did you know that Nancy Wright, State Coordinator, would be happy to help you organize a council if you have a number of educators willing to begin one?
 Did you know that Iowa Reading is on Facebook and Twitter? We hope that you are a 21st Century “groundhog”, keeping up-to-date on our Association’s activities. Even if you can’t attend meetings, you can be an active member of our literacy endeavors.
Did you know we offer a state-wide class? This year it is The Café Book by Boushey and Moser. I am so excited to meet “the Sisters” at our upcoming state conference, June 2013.
There are so many reasons to join the Iowa Reading Association. It is the desire of the Long Range Planning Committee that we have the most beneficial structure to our board and its members. If you have any suggestions for our committee, I plan to be out of my “burrow” so you can contact me at  We are so glad to “gnaw” all of you and welcome your input!

Membership Matters
By Lynette Kruger, Director of Membership Development

Top 10 Reasons
To Join Iowa Reading Association and International Reading Association

10. You’re young! -- Free for first year teachers and half-price for students for Iowa Reading and reduced rate for International!!

9. You’re old! -- Half-price for retired teachers in Iowa Reading!!  25 yr membership in International earns free membership for life.

8. Maybe learn something!?  Professional development, scholarships, renewal credit, authors, new literature.

7. Chat & Yak -- Connect with colleagues!

6. PERKS! -- freebies, snacks/meals, door prizes

5. Be in the know! -- online newsletter, mailings, meet authors & legislators

4. Get around! --  Price break on International & State Conferences

3. Portfolio enhancement -- employers look for professional organization involvement!

2. Leadership opportunities --  be seen and heard where it counts!

1. IT’S FOR THE KIDS!! -- local, state and international projects that promote literacy

Strategy Corner
Anticipation-Reaction Guide
by Megan Benson, member of  Quint County Reading Council

This is a very easy to use guide with any content area or narrative text.  The purpose of the guide is to activate the student’s prior knowledge.  This is also an easy way to get the students to become interactive readers. 

The guides are created by the teacher making up three to five statements and then the students are asked to “agree” or “disagree” before reading and then again after reading.  Below is the procedure to creating an anticipation/reaction guide.
  1. Begin by identifying three to five major concepts – implicit or explicit
  2. Write a short, declarative sentence for each idea
  3. Give the students a copy of the guide and allow them to agree or disagree.  Give the students time to discuss their choice.  Have them read the selection, then go back and record their responses.
This activity can be done in a large group or small group setting.

Before Reading Statement After Reading
Agree Disagree Agree Disagree

News from the State Coordinator
By Nancy WrightBy Nancy Wright, State Coordinator

Iowa Reading Association gives me a “WARM, fuzzy feeling”!
As I am writing this note, we have been experiencing some very cold temperatures – brrrr!  I hope you are “warmed” by your local reading council activities and events!  I have heard from the Zone Directors that many of you are judging student entries in the Creative Writing and Poetry contests.  What fun it is to read the work of our Iowa students!  Please take a photo of your council’s writing celebration and share it with our newsletter editor, Nancy White (  In our next issue, we would like to feature the great work you are doing as you promote student writing.  We also want to showcase our Iowa students that have winning entries.

Don’t forget to send your Merit Council notebooks postmarked by March 1, 2013!  Contact Brenda Nugteren, Iowa Merit Council Chair if you have any questions (  Last year we had 7 councils achieve Merit status.  Each of these councils received a $75 stipend to cover mailing expenses, and a ticket for one council officer to attend the awards banquet at the Iowa Reading Conference.   

I am always impressed with the work of each local council in the Iowa Reading Association!  It “warms my heart” to see the officers faithfully serve in their leadership roles, eagerly planning meeting schedules and securing speakers for their council meetings.  I want you to know your leadership is appreciated.  We all need to keep adding new members to our local councils.  I find the best way to get folks involved is to invite someone to a meeting and offer to car pool.  Personal contact is the number one best way to grow a council.  I remember a mentor of mine, Denise Hjelle, former Title I teacher.  My first year as a classroom teacher, Denise came to my room and asked me to become a member of our local council, Midlands of Iowa.  She invited me to a meeting that would be held in our elementary building.  The rest, as they say, is history. I encourage you to be seeking out individuals as possible leaders. Always be ready to share the leadership by asking others to help with some council tasks – large or small.   

Elections for next year’s officers will be coming up soon.  Don’t forget to submit the names and contact information for your officers to me by April 12th, please.  Reminder: fill out the online “Officer Report Form” at as well, by the end of May.  Council officers are to be members of International Reading Association – have each officer’s IRA number and renewal date ready to add to the report. 

Mark your calendar for our Summer Leadership Workshop!  The workshop will be held Monday, June 24, 2013 at the Gateway Hotel & Conference Center, Ames, IA.  The workshop will once again be just prior to the Iowa Reading Conference June 25-26, “Tune In to Reading”.  Each reading council in Iowa is encouraged to send at least two officers to the leadership workshop.  Mileage is reimbursed for one vehicle, and one hotel room is provided for your officers to share Monday evening.  Councils that send at least two officers are also eligible for the “first half” of the Local Council Grant in the amount of $125. Your council officers will receive training and support as they take on their roles.  So much information will be shared with council officers to help them plan and carry out meetings for the next year.  Each local officer will receive training for their job, and many topics will be covered throughout the workshop to help you understand the work of the local reading councils.  AND you will have FUN!  Anticipating the pleasure of spending a day with you all gives me a “warm feeling”.

Enjoy the rest of your school year and council meetings!  Please share your successes and contact me with any questions.  I am here to help!

Happy Hearts Fund
 By Carol Duehr, Past President
Committee Chair of the International Project

Happy Hearts Fund’s vision is to rebuild the lives of children after a natural disaster by rebuilding their schools.   To ensure that the schools are able to continue after Happy Hearts withdraws from the project, HHF uses the Self-Sustaining School Model.   This model has three components: Education, Technology, and Sustainability.  
Education:  After identifying schools in areas that have been adversely affected by natural disasters, HHF begins to build or rebuild the school in a disaster-proof way.   This allows the children to feel safe and begin the healing and recovery process.  HHF feels that education and safe buildings are the best investment they can make in their effort to overcome the poverty that is prevalent in disaster areas.
Technology:  After the school is finished, HHF equips each school with a computer lab and all necessary IT software, hardware, and training.   This creates more opportunities for better educational and employment options for the children.
Sustainability:  If the government is lacking in an area where a school has been rebuilt, HHF ensures that independence has been created through its sustainability initiatives and fosters a relationship with a community-oriented business to provide a long term funding stream.
Please consider supporting this very worthwhile cause this year!
Carol Duehr, Past President
Committee Chair of the International Fund

Book Talk
By Carol Duehr, Member of READ Council and Past President of Iowa Reading Association
The Bear Went Over the Mountain
Recently I have been a member of Dubuque, Iowa’s Bridge to Reading picture book committee which was established to promote preschool through kindergarten children’s love of literacy.     As I was sharing the 10 nominated books with students, I was thrilled with the quality of literature that is available to share with our youngest students.  
One of my favorites is The Bear Went Over the Mountain as told and illustrated by Iza Trapini.   This book is not only a sharing of the classic children’s song but it is also a springboard for discussion of many different concepts.  Trapini’s The Bear Went Over the Mountain takes us from spring to winter when bear becomes tired of his adventure and goes into hibernation.   There are also opportunities for counting and many descriptive words relay the use of the five senses throughout the story.  Young children will enjoy this 2012 version of a timeless children’s classic.

Just For Me...
By Lori Vicker, Zone A Director

Being a member of a book club in Des Moines consisting of retired reading teachers led me to many books I would not have normally picked up on my own to read.  The book that stands out as a favorite would have to be Beneath a Marble Sky.  This is a historical fiction written by John Shors who happens to be a native Iowan. 
The story is about the 17th century emperor who built the Taj Mahal, which is a grand mausoleum to symbolize his love for his deceased wife.  The main character is his eldest daughter, Jahanara. She escapes a brutal arranged marriage and through her bravery and wit, challenges the bigotry at court in efforts to spare the empire from civil war. She saves her father from a brutal son who attempts to extinguish the Islamic Empire.  Jahanara does find love and happiness as she oversees the construction of the Taj Mahal.  This is a beautifully written story and if you have an interest in the Indian culture, this story will not disappoint.

New Officers

Nancy White Elected Vice-President
Nancy was recently elected Vice-President and will begin her term in late June, after the 2013 reading conference. Nancy lives in Independence and is currently an adjunct professor at UNI. Nancy taught Title I reading in grades 2-8 in Independence. Nancy was a charter member of Eastern Iowa Reading Council and has been active since it began in 1980.
Nancy has been married to Gary for 38 years and they have three spoiled cats.  Her hobbies include golfing, biking, boating, and especially traveling. The planning of trips is her favorite part.
As a child she loved all the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. One of her favorite books to teach to fifth graders was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Her favorite genre to read in children’s and young adult books is historical fiction.
Nancy has had the opportunity to attend and present at state, regional, and international conferences. These experiences will be helpful as she chairs the Iowa Reading Conference of 2015, for which she looks forward in planning.
Carol Duehr is Elected Secretary
Carol  Duehr will be the secretary for Iowa Reading Association. Carol is from Dubuque and is the Librarian/Reading Teacher and Literacy Coach at George Washington Carver Elementary in Dubuque. During the 2010-2011 school year, she served as President of Iowa Reading Association. Carol has been actively involved in The Reading Educator’s Association of Dubuque (READ) Council.
Carol has been married for 41 years, with three sons and one daughter. It is not a surprise that Carol has a hobby of collecting children’s picture books.
We welcome Carol to the Executive Board and look forward to her leadership and expertise.
Diane Bean Appointed Director of Membership
Diane Bean has had experience on the Board as a zone director. She has been appointed to be Director of Membership, following Lynnette Kruger. Diane was a Title I Reading/Reading Recovery teacher for Lambert Elementary in West Delaware. She has been an active member of the Eastern Iowa Reading Council. Diane currently lives in Marion.
Diane comes from a family of teachers. Both grandmothers, both parents, her sister, many aunts, and her niece are (or were) teachers. Her hobbies include reading, traveling and doing things with her family.
Diane writes that Pulling Your Own Strings was one of the most life-changing books she ever read. She recalls many excellent meetings in her council but one of her favorite was when David Nieves came to share his snakes and lizards.
Diane feels that trying to fill Lynette’s shoes will be hard, but she is up to the challenge and looks forward to working with many of the dedicated members of the Iowa Reading Association.
Megan Benson, Zone D Director
Megan Benson was elected Zone D Director. She is a Title 1 Reading/Math and ESL Instructor in Pomeroy. She is a young, ambitious member of Quint County Reading Council, currently serving as President. Megan lives in Pocahontas.
Megan is a single gal who grew up on Lawton. Her parents still live there and she has a younger brother in Omaha. Megan loves reading, traveling, baking/cooking, and watching/attending sporting events.
Megan’s favorite books include Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, and books by Nicholas Sparks.
An interesting note from Megan is the she attended the Olympic Swimming Trials in the summer of 2012 and got Michael Phelps’s autograph.
Megan comments, “I am excited to begin this new adventure with Iowa Reading and share my passion with others.”
Julie Ortner Elected Zone C Director
Julie Ortner was recently elected Director of Zone C. She is a kindergarten teacher at St Athanasius in Jesup. She has been a member of Eastern Iowa Reading Council and has become very active. Julie lives in Jesup.
Julie became interested in the zone director position after discussing it with the current zone director. She looks forward to visiting other councils and seeing how they operate.
We welcome Julie to the Board and look forward to her fresh ideas.
Karla Bronzynski Elected Zone B Director
Karla Bronzynski comes from the Hardy Reading Council. She teaches first grade at Eldora New Providence School and lives in Eldora. Karla has served on the state Board and offers a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Karla has enjoyed the work in many offices in Hardy and Three Rivers Councils. She has also enjoyed the work of the State Board and how it supports the local councils. She sees her council as one that takes reading as a priority to students.
 Karla continues to show and share her passion for literacy, our association, and her students.

“So Long, Farewell” by the Van Trap Singers
By Candace Booth, Nominations Chair

Our reading association bids farewell to a few Board members who are either completing their term in office or are moving to a different position. Lynnette Kruger completes two terms as Director of Membership. Nancy White has served as secretary and newsletter editor for many, many years. Completing two terms are zone directors Diane Bean from Zone C and Candace Booth from Zone D. Heidi Meyer has resigned as treasurer and moved to a more important role as a mother. These people have been dedicated in attending meetings, playing leadership roles, assisting at the state conference and supporting the Association in many ways. The Board and association members appreciate their show of professionalism in teaching and passion for Iowa Reading.

Homegrown Iowa Authors
Tom Kepler
 By Susan Alarie, Jefferson-Van Buren Reading Council and Tom Kepler
Tom Kepler has been a classroom teacher for grades 7-12 for thirty-four years. Two teaching activities that he has used during his career are engaging students in the writing process through writing workshops and using 6-Traits + 1 writing strategies. He feels that there is a healthy relationship between being a writer and teaching writing. “Publishing has allowed me to gain valuable insights into the writing process that I’ve tried to pass on to my students.”

Daniel Hayes, author of the IRA Young Adult Choice novel, The Trouble With Lemons, says of Tom Kepler’s young adult novel, Love Ya Like a Sister, “Realism and romance share the stage in this young adult novel about two sisters, the guy next door, and ‘the other woman.’  Tom Kepler is a talented writer who portrays the problems of contemporary teens with grace and compassion.”  The story sets out with “Blowing Chunks” as the title to the first chapter wherein the main character is compassionately holding his girlfriend’s hair as she hurls from overindulging in alcohol.  Of course, this is only one of the struggles teens in the novel face:  another chapter is entitled,” Grand Theft Auto” (not the video game)! 

More graceful than the portrayal of contemporary teen’s problems, however, are Tom’s lyrical descriptions, “…a pond cupped in a palmful of earth, nothing but sky, pasture, water.  Afternoon’s sweaty hand had stroked them with humid air until they were sticky, enveloped in the humid cocoon of summer:  insect chirrs; damp loam; water smells moist with life; colors saturated with heat and moisture—green, blue, brown and black, splashes of red and blond, flesh tones, moist tongues of color lapping their sweating bodies.”  And cleverly sandwiched in these lyrical passages are fragments of Tom’s philosophy of life, “The air was cold, and when he breathed out into the illuminated night, he saw his breath frosting.  A clarity came to Randy as he walked.  He had asked the wrong question, he realized.  It’s not what Susie wants, he thought.  It’s what I want.  What do I want? he asked himself, and the closest he came to an answer was a dull, aching, empty silence within.”

Tom not only writes with compassion and grace, he lives this way.  In the dedication of Love Ya Like a Sister, Tom says. “…for the students…May they always be supported by family, friends, school, and community.” 

Tom Kepler’s most recent book is a foray into non-fiction, I Write: Being & Writing, consisting of a series of essays exploring the relationship between the writer, the process of writing, and the written word. Each essay ends with three discussion questions or activities that are structured according to Robert Sternberg’s Triarchic Model of Intelligence, providing a focus on the analytical, creative, and practical aspects of thinking and writing.

His current project, entitled Dragons of Blood and Stone, is a sequel to his fantasy novel The Stone Dragon.

Online publications are listed at his website. Who Listened to Dragons, Three Stories was published in 2012 as an eBook at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. He has also published flash fiction online at Metazen, Every Day Fiction, and 365tomorrows. His online poetry publications are at Every Day Poets.

A teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program, he has taught at Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa, since the fall of 2005.

Tom Kepler Writing Online
Website and blog:

Teacher Tech Time
By Laura Meyer

For all of you that want to find an easy way to make your presentations pop, I would recommend Prezi as a great place to begin.   For starters, Prezi is free for educators and this is always a number one priority when looking for new technology.  Second, Prezi has several premade formats that can provide everything except for the words to describe your content, or you can start from scratch if that is your preference.  Prezis take a small amount of time to learn and can be edited whenever the author chooses to do so.  You can also share Prezis with others, so it’s a great presentation tool to use in multiple places with allowing others to add specific pieces.  The only downfall to a Prezi is that currently the print function is difficult to use because the presentation cannot be printed in sections.  Prezi is making improvements every day, so be hopeful that the print part of the presentation will become more efficient.  Please check out Prezi at when you have a minute as that’s all you’ll need to get started! 


Our mailing address is: Iowa Reading Association | P.O. Box 16 | Ossian, IA 52161