Building Teacher Content Knowledge in Reading and Literacy

Strong reading and literacy skills are critical to success in school and life. We provide professional development, technical assistance, and resources to assist educators in strengthening literacy support at all levels, from designing statewide literacy programs, to incorporating reading strategies across content areas, to engaging parents in helping their children learn to read. In addition, our research and evaluation team conducts studies of reading programs to measure their effectiveness and expand our knowledge of how best to teach this core subject.

Featured Work

“We need to equip CTE centers with instructional resources for building students’ technical reading, comprehension, and vocabulary skills across content areas. . . . SEDL has greatly assisted in this endeavor by introducing relevant literacy strategies and working to assist technical instructors through job-embedded experiences!” — Gail Simmons, Office of Career and Technical Education, Mississippi Department of Education

Literacy Strategies for Career and Technical Education

Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes prepare adolescent students for careers ranging from auto repair and nursing to graphic design and polymer science. But many students are not prepared for the highly demanding technical content in CTE texts. What’s more, instructors often have no formal training in building students’ literacy and comprehension skills. To address this issue, our Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) partnered with the Mississippi Office of Career and Technical Education to develop a coaching initiative to strengthen literacy support in CTE classes. Through summer institutes, webinars, videos, and on-site visits, teams from CTE centers learned how to integrate research-based literacy strategies aligned with state standards into their content areas. Read more

Significant Work

Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC): The SECC provides professional development and technical assistance to the state education agencies of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina to build their capacity to support districts and schools in meeting student achievement goals, including achievement in reading and literacy. For example, SECC staff build each state’s capacity to plan and develop comprehensive statewide literacy plans. See “Featured Work” above for additional examples of SECC work in the area of reading and literacy.

Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC): The TXCC provides professional development and technical assistance to the Texas Education Agency and the state’s 20 regional education service centers to build their capacity to support districts and schools in meeting student achievement goals, including achievement in reading and literacy.

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest: The REL Southwest assists the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas in using data and research evidence to address high-priority education needs in the region. To support student achievement in reading and literacy, the REL Southwest has provided training and resources related to the Teaching Academic Content to English Learners in Middle and Elementary School practice guide from the What Works Clearinghouse.

SRA Imagine It! Today's Open Court Randomized Controlled Trial: SEDL and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are conducting a national, large-scale randomized controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of SRA Imagine It! Today's Open Court, an elementary school reading program. The study, which involves more than 40 schools across multiple districts, uses a multisite cluster randomized trial design to examine whether the program affects achievement outcomes for K–5 students over 2 school years and whether those outcomes vary significantly across students, schools, and districts.

Show More Work


Image of publication cover Cognitive Foundations of Learning to Read: A Framework
This book provides a concise summary of the research findings related to how children learn to read. A graphical representation of the framework is provided to familiarize teachers with the cognitive elements that research has shown to be essential in learning to read.

Image of publication cover SEDL Insights, Vol. 1, No. 3: Increasing the Effectiveness of Literacy Coaches
Many districts turn to literacy coaches to deliver professional development, follow-up, and support in implementing evidence-based instructional practices and programs. While literacy coaches offer an effective job-embedded professional learning mechanism for teachers, districts should also provide professional development opportunities for literacy coaches This issue of SEDL Insights how education leaders can help literacy coaches have the greatest impact at their schools.
Image of publication cover Secondary Content-Area Literacy: Time for Crisis or Opportunity for Reform?: Texas Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, Number 12
This brief examines the critical need to implement instruction at the secondary level around adolescent, or content-area, literacy. The challenge is to connect the teaching of literacy to the rest of the secondary education improvement agenda.
Image of publication cover SEDL Insights, Vol. 3, No. 1: Teaching Content-Area Literacy and Disciplinary Literacy
This issue of SEDL Insights focuses on two types of literacy that are crucial to helping students become college and career ready: content-area literacy and disciplinary literacy.
Image of publication cover Common Core State Standards Video Series: ELA
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) videos are designed to support states, schools, and teachers in the implementation of the CCSS. Each video is an audiovisual resource that focuses on one or more specific standards and usually includes examples and illustrations geared to enhancing understanding. 
Image of publication cover Literacy in Afterschool: An Instructor's Guide to the Afterschool Training Toolkit

The six promising practices in student achievement in literacy identified in the Afterschool Training Toolkit are as follows: Book Discussion Groups and Literature Circles; Read Aloud; Story and Literature Dramatizations; Writing; Family Literacy Events; One-on-One and Small-Group Tutoring. When used with the Afterschool Training Toolkit, the lessons in this instructor’s guide will help you master these promising practices. Once you become proficient at these practices, you should be able to use them to develop other literacy lessons.

Image of publication cover Literacy in Afterschool: An Instructor's Guide to Read Alouds with the Afterschool Training Toolkit

The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning developed this instructor’s guide to accompany its Afterschool Training Toolkit, a free online staff development tool. Both the guide and the toolkit materials are designed to give afterschool instructors the resources they need to build fun, innovative, and academically enriching activities that not only engage students, but extend their knowledge in new ways and increase academic achievement.

Image of publication cover Literacy in Afterschool: A Guide to Using the Afterschool Training Toolkit for Professional Development
The Afterschool Training Toolkit materials are designed to illustrate techniques and activities that leverage student curiosity to make literacy in afterschool both enjoyable and relevant. This guide provides professional development ideas for promising literacy practices in afterschool.
Image of publication cover SEDL Letter, Volume XIX, Number 2 (Oct. 2007): Reading: Practices to Help Improve Instruction
This issue of SEDL Letter examines ways to strengthen literacy through father-child interactions and systemic approaches, including Response to Intervention and school improvement.
Image of publication cover SEDL Letter, Volume XVII, Number 1: Reaching Our Reading Goals
This issue of SEDL Letter is devoted to topics related to reading instruction, including the role of literacy coaches, how to motivate readers, and instruction to improve comprehension.
Image of publication cover SEDL Letter, Volume XIV, Number 3 (Dec. 2002): Putting Reading First
This issue of SEDL Letter focuses on early reading instruction and assessment, including topics such as reading and migrant students and the importance of phonemic awareness.
Image of publication cover Southeast Comprehensive Center eBulletin, Volume 5, Number 1: Strengthening Literacy Programs and Instruction
This issue of the Southeast Comprehensive Center eBulletin focuses on literacy, specifically on how states can strengthen their literacy programs or plans and provide effective professional development and technical assistance for high-need districts in their efforts to implement quality literacy instruction.
Image of publication cover Reading First Notebook: The Newsletter for the Reading First Program
The Reading First Notebook was published on a quarterly basis from 2004 to 2006, and is now available online for download in pdf format. The newsletter provided thematic issues covering topics such as assessment, professional development, and instruction for special population students.
Image of publication cover Reading Assessment Database for Grades PreK–3
This database, a complementary tool to the Cognitive Foundations of Learning to Read: A Framework, enables reading teachers to search for preK–3 reading assessments that test the framework's 14 reading skills.

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