Iowa Reading Association 2012 Summer Newsletter

Presidents Column
Happy Reading Everyone!  Are you counting the days to summer yet?  Before you “check out” for the summer, please keep in mind the following things to think about:
  1. Get registered for the Iowa Reading Conference June 26th-27th.  Remember you can get staff renewal credit through AEA 11.  It is already posted on their professional development web site.  You can also get Viterbo graduate credit.  There is a link to register for the credit on our web site at
  2. Finish your book study group on Richard Allington’s "What Really Matters for Struggling Readers."  Please turn in final reflection and article to me by June 17th.
  3. Keep in mind, next year’s book study group will be on the CAFÉ book by the “Sisters”.  They will be coming to our June, 2013 conference!  The “Sisters” will have the format they want us to use for next year.  Clark Goltz and I would like to see the format of next year’s class be more structured and specific on what you do at each meeting.  The idea of this state-wide class was to increase membership for the Iowa Reading Association.  It is also a great way to collaborate with your own teaching staff and others throughout the state.
  4. Check out this book for summer reading: Pathways to the Common Core Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman.  Excellent book!  I highly recommend it!
Take the time to rejuvenate over the summer!  I hope to see you all in June at the Iowa Reading Conference! I loved being your President this year; it was a very fulfilling experience!

Let’s make Iowa Reading even better next year!  With your help and involvement we can!
Julie Neal,
President of the Iowa Reading Association

Use the Iowa Reading Association Website to Begin Planning for the 2012 Conference
From Tony Pieper, President-Elect of the Iowa Reading Association

Be a Part of Iowa Reading Association’s First Summer Conference

The 2012 Iowa Reading Association ESEA Title I Conference is almost here! Our first-ever summer conference will be held June 26 and 27 at the Scheman  Building on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa.  The conference theme this year is “Summer Vacation: Destination Literacy!” This conference will be a great way to conclude your school year and kick off the summer.

It is not too late to register for the conference. To get started, visit and click on the “2012 Conference Information” link found on our homepage.  There you will find a printable registration form.  Iowa Reading Association members who pre-register before June 1 will receive a $20 discount on a full conference registration and a $15 discount on a one-day registration.  Full-time students and retired teachers can also take advantage of special discounts.  In addition, groups of six or more from the same school or institution qualify for a 25% discount on registration (does not include meals).  

But why wait until June 1 to register?  Send your registration in today.  Registration forms postmarked by May 18 will be entered into a drawing for a free iPad!  The winner will be announced at the conference on Wednesday, June 27.  Imagine the fun you could have all summer long with your own iPad and how useful it will be in the classroom this fall.

Why should you attend this conference?  Because the Iowa Reading Association is bringing you the best keynote speakers in the fields of literacy and reading.  On Tuesday, June 26, the keynote speakers will include Judy Brunner (professor at Missouri State University and co-founder of EDU-SAFE and Instructional Solutions Group), Richard Peck (Newbery Award-winning author), and Dr. Jerry Johns (Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University and author).  On Wednesday, June 27, the featured keynote speakers will be Dr. Judith Youngers (Dinah Zike Academy), Dr. Danny Brassel (professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills), and Dr. Richard Allington (professor of education at the University of Tennessee).  All of the keynote speakers are published authors whose books will be on sale at the conference, and each speaker will be available for book signing after his or her presentation.

Besides keynote speakers, there will be three concurrent session blocks each day.  During each block, there will be eight sessions for you to choose from.  Session topics include: brain research, comprehension instruction, content area reading, Common Core Curriculum, Daily Five/CAFE, fluency instruction, parental involvement, phonics instruction, professional development, reading recovery, technology integration, Title I, vocabulary instruction, and writing strategies. The presenters include authors, college professors, classroom teachers, and literacy experts from across the United States.

Between keynote and concurrent sessions, there will be time for you to visit our exhibit hall.  We currently have over 35 exhibitors scheduled to be at the conference.  You will find a wide array of fun and educational items for both your personal and professional life.

We hope that you are looking forward to our first summer conference.  In order for it to be a success, we need you to be there.  Please register today!

Summer Leadership Workshop
By Deb Mortensen, State Coordinator   

One of the sessions I wanted to see at the recent International Reading Convention in Chicago was an author named Laura Numeroff. She is the author of the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” books.  I wish to use her text structure and relate that to our upcoming state leadership conference. (My apologies to Ms. Numeroff as I welcome the new local officers!)
  • If you elect a new officer to your council, they are probably going to need some training;
  • If they need training, they are going to want to visit with state officers;
  • If they want to visit with state officers, they are going to be at Iowa Reading Association’s State Leadership workshop;
  • If they want to go the Leadership workshop, they will have to travel to Ames, Iowa on Monday, June 25;
  • If they go on Monday, June 25, they will be with state officers and committee chairs;
  • The state officers and committee chairs will tell the new local officers about opportunities for their councils;
  • The councils will benefit because the new leaders will have opportunities to network with others;
  • That network will create a stronger Iowa Reading Association and if we have a stronger Reading Association, it will be due to the local officers of your council.
To summarize, we hope to see all local council officers at our annual June Summer Leadership Workshop training on June 25 from 10:00-8:00 p.m. Invitations have been sent and we ask that your reply no later than June 1 so arrangements can be confirmed. This will be held at The Hotel at Gateway Center in Ames the day before our first summer state conference, June 26-27. This training is of no cost to you or your council. If you have questions, please contact Deb Mortensen

Strategy Corner
By Rebecca Pashek

Finding a variety of ways to keep learning interesting is a challenge.  With baseball season coming up, how about trying Vocabulary Baseball?
  1. Divide the class into two teams.
  2. Identify a location in the classroom for first, second, third base and home plate.
  3. A batter from the visiting team comes up.
  4. The batter is given a definition and he or she needs to give the corresponding word.
  5. If the batter is wrong he is out. If he is right, he goes to first.
  6. The next batter comes up and attempts to move him over. After three outs, the other team is up.
  7. A small prize could be awarded to the winning team.
  8. This could be done with any type of vocabulary or subject information.
Used from

Iowa Reading Association Scholarship Winners Announced
By Ed Starkenburg, Studies and Research Committee Chair

Each year, the Iowa Reading Association offers two scholarships to Iowa Reading Association members who are either undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in reading related courses. We are pleased to announce our two 2012 winners are Gwen Marra, an Instructor in Education at Dordt College, and Kelli Durant, a junior majoring in elementary education at Dordt. They will be awarded their scholarships at the Awards Banquet during the annual Iowa Reading Association state conference in Ames on June 26.

Gwen Marra has been teaching reading and early childhood education courses at Dordt College since 2004. She is also a doctoral candidate at the University of South Dakota in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in teaching reading. Gwen is a member of the Northwest Iowa Reading Council and has been a member for several years as an early childhood and elementary educator. She is the owner and director of Learning Ship Preschool and previously taught at Sioux Center Christian School. She has also volunteered at and worked with children’s programming at the Sioux Center Public Library.

Kelli Durant is currently a junior elementary education major at Dordt College from Waupun, Wisconsin. She is earning a reading endorsement and is the student liaison for Dordt on the Northwest Iowa Reading Council board. Kelli serves as the president of Dordt’s future teachers club. She volunteers in the Sioux Center community by participating in the Big Brother/Big Sister Lunch Buddy program, the KidZone after school program, and Unity Meal program. Kelli plans to student teach and graduate in the spring of 2013.

Iowa Reading congratulates both Gwen and Kelli! We invite their communities and schools to celebrate this honor with them!

From Your State Coordinator
By Deb Mortensen, State Coordinator

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago for the 57th Annual International Reading Conference. Because the conference was in the neighboring state I decided to drive there. I have made this trip east 4 times in the last 4 years and every time I take my trusty GPS. I admit that I can be directionally challenged at times so this electronic devise is essential. Her name is “Judy”. I am thinking of renaming her “Patience” because no matter how many wrong turns I take, “Judy” never gets angry at me. She just says in her very calm voice "recalculating…recalculating” and then she tells me how to get back on track. My GPS helps me see that it’s not the end of the world when I mess up.

This is true when we think of ourselves as reading association members. Look back at all the things you and your council have done this year. Perhaps you made some mistakes as leaders. Maybe your programs weren’t what your members were interested in. Maybe your communication wasn’t as strong as you hoped for. Maybe that reading strategy you tried in the classroom didn’t work well for your students. Maybe you didn’t make that personal contact to invite someone to join and your membership floundered. Even though your Iowa Reading Association “GPS” might have had to “recalculate”, didn’t you learn something from the experience? Every time you fail (or think you have), look on it as a learning tool. What can you do different next time? How can you improve?

As I write my final article as State Coordinator, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be your “Judy” these past six years. I know we had to do some recalculating at times but overall I think we are going in the right direction. We have had successful summer Leadership workshops, moved our conference to a more cost effective venue, developed a website, received the “Award of Excellence” each year and elected some board members (both state and local) who are willing to think “outside the box”, but at the same time honor the history of the Iowa Reading Association.

In closing, think about this… “The best time to do something worthwhile is between yesterday and tomorrow”. You don’t plan to unplug that GPS, do you?

Honor Councils

According to the dictionary, honor means to “confer a distinction upon”. Sunday, April 29th at the International Convention two Iowa Reading Councils received “Honor Council” status. These councils were Eastern Iowa Reading Council (Pat Johnson, President) and Hardy Reading Council (Karla Bronzynski, President). These councils deserve this distinction as they completed the paperwork for items pertaining to local council activities, state involvement and International membership. This is the 14th year EIRC has received the award and the 28th year Hardy has received the award. I truly feel “Honor Council” is a good name for the award. These councils work hard and make us proud to be leaders in literacy.

(From left, Rayann Mitchell from IRA and Diane Bean representing Eastern Iowa Reading Council.)

Award of Excellence
By Deb Mortensen, State Coordinator

The Award of Excellence is given to those states/provinces that complete the paperwork regarding service to councils and its members, service to the state’s educational programs and service to International. Iowa was one of 30 states/provinces to receive this award this year. Even though the State Coordinator organizes the information, this information is gathered from many people. Let me use an acrostic poem to help explain this award.
  • E is for excellent state conference. One of the criteria is hosting a state conference and last year Julie Neal hosted us in Ames as we “discovered literacy treasures”.
  • X is for x-cellent website. We have had a wonderful website over the years but by hiring someone, we have an x-pert at our fingertips all the time.
  • C is for Creative Writing and Poetry. Lynn Kilpatrick and Deb Wake again organized the Creative Writing/Poetry celebrations. Who could forget David Nieves pulling out his snakes?
  • E is for Electronic mail. This year the application and all its components were sent via e-mail. The writer of the application was nervous about it but it worked out fine.
  • L is for Long Range Planning. One of the things we did was consider a state-wide class. This was the first ever and Richard Allington’s book study was well received by over 100 members.
  • L is for Leadership Training. This event, held last June, gave local council officers and state officers/committee chairs a chance to plan programs for the coming year. Are you planning on coming to this year’s Leadership training on June 25th?
  • E is for Elections. We always seem to find quality leaders who want to be on the state board. These people are willing to give of their time on weekends to plan events that will be celebrated by teachers across the state. What will YOU say when someone approaches you about being an officer?
  • N is for Newsletter. The Iowa Reading Newsletter (found at has so much to offer. I hope you have found it helpful and will be willing to write an article in the coming year.
  • C  is  for Councils. Local councils are the “heart” of our Association. Without them, our mission would not be carried out, programs not supported and information not shared. Thanks for all you do to promote literacy in your area of the state.
  • E is for Education. By being a member of the Iowa Reading Association and International Reading Association, you receive research-based information as soon as it becomes available. This in turn, comes to your classroom, where your students benefit.
By spelling “Excellence”, you can see why I am so proud of this accomplishment for our Association. Sure, I walked across the stage to accept the honor but it was a team effort that got us there. Thanks to all of you and best wishes, Nancy Wright, as you work towards this as our new State Coordinator.

Teacher Tech Time
By Renee Thomas, Zone I Director

Good day Iowa Reading Association members, meet Wilbor.  Wilbor is an online lending library for eBooks, Kindle books and audiobooks.  Libraries in Central, Southeast, Southwest and Northwest Iowa subscribe to Wilbor.  You check out books for a 14 day period, downloaded to your computer or to the Overdrive app on Apple and Android devices.   All you need is a library card from your local library.  After the lending period is over, you lose access to the book.  Now some books can be transferred to a CD or flashdrive for future listens, but most are only available for the 14 days.

P.S.  For those of you up to a challenge, The Book Whisperer’s Book-A-Day summer adventure at

Just For Me
By Melissa Haberichter
K-12 Teacher Librarian
MFL MarMac Community School District, Member of Northeast Iowa Reading Council
Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about pairing fiction and nonfiction books and the power it can have to pull a reader into a topic or to deepen understanding of a concept. I have two books in my high school library that do this and I love promoting them. The first book is by Jim Murphy entitled The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. If you haven’t found Jim Murphy books yet, they are nonfiction books that read so much like a story, you won’t even realize how much new information you’re taking in. I haven’t always been a big reader of nonfiction, but Jim Murphy makes me feel like I am reading a fiction novel for fun.

Now, pair this book with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, a fictional tale of a girl living through the Yellow Fever epidemic. Anderson writes with such gritty details that, opposite of the Murphy books, I forget I’m reading fiction and begin to believe that the story is true.

When finished with these books, you come away with an understanding of a period of history that most people know very little about. Even if I am not initially interested in the topic, I suddenly feel like an expert! And your students will too!

Homegrown Iowa Authors: Sharon Rexroth
By Lisa Groenendyk, member of Three River Reading Council and a fourth grade teacher at Pella Christian Grade School

Sharon Rexroth, author of the delightful and educational children’s books Iowa From the Sky, America From the Sky, Illinois From the Sky, Arizona From the Sky, Ohio From the Sky, and Bethlehem From the Sky, was the guest speaker at the April 16, 2012, Young Writers Celebration hosted by the Three Rivers Reading Council. The young writers, along with their parents and reading council members, were captivated by Sharon’s reading of her book Iowa From the Sky in which Barnaby, the yellow goldfinch (and state bird of Iowa) travels across Iowa and describes what he sees. Along the way, Sharon gave the group many additional interesting and little-known facts (secrets as she called them!) about several of the Iowa sites in the book.  Ms. Rexroth also pointed out the realism and detail in the watercolor illustrations painted by her sister-in-law, Lee Ann Paasch.

Sharon’s books, with their easy-to-read rhymes and appealing illustrations, make them a delight to the ears and eyes. The cross-curricular connections of writing, art, and social studies make them a valuable addition to any library. Sharon is currently working on more state books “from the sky”.  Her passion is to share information on special places in a lively, creative, and colorful way, promoting literacy and enjoyment for young readers.

To learn more about Sharon Rexroth go to

Book Talk
By Crystal Thurn
3rd grade teacher
MFL MarMac Community School District, Member of Northeast Iowa Reading Council

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could make something disappear forever?  Well, in the book The Word Eater  by Mary Amato, Lerner Chance learns just that.  Lerner is forced to move to a new school because of her dad’s new job.   She is very unhappy about this move but what is worse is her new school.  She misses her friends from back home and feels like she doesn’t belong.  One day at school Lerner finds a friend.  His name is Fip, and he is a worm.  Unknowingly to Lerner, Fip feels like he doesn’t belong in his clan either. When they find each other some real interesting things begin to happen.  Fip is not an ordinary worm he is magic!  Fip doesn’t like to eat dirt he much prefers words.  When Lerner realizes the magic Fip has she begins to wonder how she could use Fip to solve her problems.  In doing so, she discovers that new problems arise when the magic is used.

Merit Councils for 2011-2012
Brenda Nugteren, State Merit Council Chairman

Each year the local reading councils in our state have the opportunity to participate in Iowa Reading Association’s Merit Council Award program.  In order to be considered for the award, a council must complete 6 required items and at least 10 optional items within 4 categories:  
  • Membership
  • Program
  • Support of the Iowa Reading Association
  • Support of the International Reading Association
Councils must be in good standing, with officers who are members of the International Reading Association, as well as members of Iowa Reading Association.

The following councils successfully completed the award program for the 2011-2012 year:
  • Hardy Reading Council
  • Northeast Iowa Reading Council
  • READ (Reading Educators’ Association of Dubuque)
  • Midlands of Iowa Reading Council
  • Three Rivers Reading Council
  • Quint County Reading Council
  • Eastern Iowa Reading Council
Congratulations to these councils for the effort they have demonstrated in diligently working to provide activities that not only promote literacy, but also help educators develop fundamental strategies to reach that goal.

Each council will be acknowledged for Merit Council status at the June 26 Awards Banquet held at Scheman Hall on the ISU campus in Ames.  A $75 award will be presented to each council to cover scrapbooking supplies and postage to mail the council notebooks to the state Merit Council Chair.

Iowa Reading Earns Membership Award
By Lynette Kruger, Director of Membership Development

Iowa Reading Association was informed that it achieved its membership goal for the International Reading Association and will be presented the Gold Level Membership Achievement Award at the International Reading Conference in Chicago on April 29.  Our association had an increase of 112 members in the International Reading Association.  

The Council Award Ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, April 29 at the Chicago Hilton & Towers.  This award ceremony is a special event that honors council (state) leaders for their outstanding contributions to the reading profession and International Reading Association.  A reception will follow the ceremony.

It is an honor to receive this award for our association.  It is a combined effort of many within our state membership and state officers to bring attention to teachers across the state of the benefits of membership in the International Reading Association.   

Our next goals will be to maintain this membership and increase student membership in the International Reading Association.  For those of us who are members of International it is a professional obligation for us to encourage our students in the field of education to become a member of this professional organization and to enjoy the rewards it provides in so many ways.

By Candace Booth, Nominations Committee Chair

Earlier this year three zone directors were elected and will begin new terms in June. There was a zone replacement for Zone G.

Zone A Director will be Lori Vicker. Lori had moved from Zone E to the Okoboji area which is in Zone A. She replaces Sara Youngers who completes her term. Lori is technically retired from the classroom but remains active in literacy with speaking, teaching college classes and promoting her books.

Zone E Director, Becky Pashek, had filled Lori Vicker’s position to complete that term. She will begin her own term this summer. Becky has had experience in the elementary classroom and is currently a teacher librarian at Walnut Hills Elementary in the Waukee School District. She is a member of the Dallas County Reading Council. She and her husband have four children and seven grandchildren.

Zone F Director is Deanna Stoube who begins her second term. Deanna is the TEP Assessment Coordinator at St. Ambose University in Davenport.

Wendy Matson will replace Nancy Wright of Zone G since Nancy has been elected as the State Coordinator. Wendy resides in Underwood and teaches first grade at Tri-Center Schools at Neola. Wendy has been a member and/or officer of Midlands of Iowa for nearly 20 years. Wendy received her degrees from Warburg College and UNI. She and her husband have an eight year old daughter and live on an acreage outside of Council Bluffs.

The Board welcomes these directors who offer both previous and new flavors to Iowa Reading. Terms will end in 2013 for directors of Zones B, C, and D. The Board invites anyone interested to apply by this fall.

Executive Positions Filled
By Candace Booth, Nominations Committee Chair

Deb Mortensen was elected Vice-President of Iowa Reading. This position will begin after the state conference in June 2012. Deb has been involved with Iowa Reading for over 30 years. She most recently served as State Coordinator. Deb’s first exposure to the association was as a student member at Warburg College. She has held many offices at her local Quint County Reading Council. She served two different terms as zone director. Deb has been a regular presenter at the reading conference on a variety of topics. Deb follows Wendy Hammrich in the chain of positions to Presidency of Iowa Reading.

Deb and farmer husband, Dave, live hear Alta. Deb teaches kindergarten in the Storm Lake School system. There will surely be ample professional growth, motivation, and fun as Deb leads the association in the next few years.

Nancy Wright was elected State Coordinator which moved her from the Zone G Director position. She follows Deb Mortensen in this term of three years. Nancy has had involvement at the local, state, or national levels since the early 1980’s. Nancy has previously been on the Executive Board, serving as President of Iowa Reading in 2006-07.

Nancy teaches Title 1 reading/math for 1st grade at Northeast Elementary in Glenwood. She and her husband, Martin, have three grown children and three grandchildren.

The Board expresses thanks for Nancy’s past involvement and looks forward to her leadership as State Coordinator.

Several Iowa Reading Association officers attended the International Reading
Association Annual Convention in April in Chicago.   Pictured are, from left,
officers Tony Pieper, Deb Mortensen, Julie Neal, Wendy Hammrich with author
Jarrett J. Krosoczka enjoying the breakfast atop Hotel 71 sponsored by
Perfection Learning.  Not pictured but also attending the convention from
Iowa Reading were Diane Bean and Clark Goltz.

Bylaws, Policies and Procedures Calendar

  • Secretary term begins odd years.  Past secretary is to train and mentor.  
  • President and Executive Director set meeting dates for Board and Executive Committee Meetings.

  • Board Retreat and Leadership
  • Vice-President facilitates transfer meeting and job description meeting for all Board of Directors and the Executive Committee.
  • Vice-President serves as sergeant-at-arms at Delegates Assembly.
  • Vice-President contacts Title I Director and requests to be part of their budget for the next conference.
  • Coordinator distributes the State Directory.
  • Zones brainstorm nominations for directors and officers.
  • Local Council Grant Applications available at Leadership.
  • Fiscal year begins
  • President-Elect and Vice-President meet with conference facilitators and President-Elect delegates duties to the Vice-President
  • Treasurer submits all books and records to the auditor.
  • By August 15 Director of Membership communicates to local council membership directors.

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