IRA: A cheat sheet

If you’re attending the annual convention of the International Reading Association in New Orleans this weekend (May 9-12), you may be overwhelmed by the possibilities—so many creative minds, so little time. (And we haven't even gotten to the French Quarter.)

I’m skeptical that there's a room big enough to fit everyone who wants to see Dav Pilkey, the creator of Captain Underpants. But the first 5,000 attendees to arrive at the convention center Sunday morning can hear Pilkey discuss how his childhood challenges with dyslexia and ADHD have shaped his art (Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m., Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Exhibit Hall F).

Afterwards, Pilkey and Dan Santat will sign copies of Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot #1 at the Scholastic Booth (10 a.m.-11:30 a.m., #1526). So, yes, gridlock alert.

Pilkey’s creative counterpart Jeff Kinney, best-selling author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, will offer tips on how to draw in reluctant readers. I’m guessing that the word “draw” has a few meanings here (Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m., Exhibit Hall F).

After Kinney, I'll be heading to Richard Allington’s presentation, “Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap” (Saturday, 11 a.m.-12 p.m., La Nouvelle Ballroom, Section C).

I'm also eager to hear the great Phyllis C. Hunter, author of It’s Not Complicated: What I Know for Sure About Helping Students of Color Become Successful Readers. Hunter, who is one of the most dynamic people on the planet (step aside, Captain Underpants), will talk about how to help children succeed in school and in life (Monday, 11 a.m.-noon, La Nouvelle Ballroom Section C).

I asked Scholastic colleagues and authors which sessions and events were on their to-do list. Here’s a sampling:

Richard Bourque (Senior Marketing Manager, Scholastic Education):

Two interactive and engaging presentations by our own Becky Bone will showcase Guided Reading Nonfiction 2nd Edition and Comprehension Clubs. Becky always packs the house, and what’s a book session without giveaways?

• “Nonfiction Guided Reading: The Best Support for Achieving Grade Level Independent Reading,” Sunday, 11 a.m.-noon, Room 338.

• “Achieving Deep Comprehension Through the Interactive Read-Aloud and Student Book Clubs,” Sunday, 3 p.m.-4p.m., Room 346-347.

Billy di Michele (VP, Creative Development):

Do you have quick tips to help get kids reading? If so, stop by the Scholastic Booth, #1526, on Saturday or Sunday between 10 and 4, and we’ll record your ideas to share with other educators. Those who are shy can watch colleagues' advice on a live twitter feed.

Ruth Culham (President, The Culham Writing Company):

In “Deep Reading and Deep Writing,” Laura Robb and I will discuss how to develop literacy skills using mentor texts. Teacher participants will see that the use of mentor texts frees them to differentiate and teach students no matter where they are (Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Room 384-385).

In “When Giants Unite: The 4Ws of Writing Meet the Common Core State Standards,” I’ll show you a practical way to start a writing revolution in your own classroom (Saturday, 3 p.m.-4 p.m., Room 339).

And I can’t wait to see Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney!

Pam Allyn (Executive Director, LitWorld):

This year’s IRA Convention is stunning in scope with an incredible lineup of speakers, author panels, institutes and sessions. Literacy is humankind’s greatest innovation, and this is a grand celebration of it!

My Saturday session will focus on the joyous and transformative act of close reading: “Close Reading: How to Inspire Students to Find the Core of Who They Are as Readers, Writers, Listeners and Speakers" (Saturday, 3 p.m.-4 p.m., Room 252-253).

I'll also share “Five Quick (Fun) Tips for Engaging Struggling Readers" (Sunday, 10:10 a.m., Scholastic Booth, #1526).

I’m excited to hear from—and perhaps get a few books signed by—some of my favorite children’s book authors. Highlights include:

• A panel discussion featuring Joy Cowley and Aaron Reynolds ("Books for Young Readers," Saturday, 11 a.m.-noon, Room 342)

• A panel discussion featuring one of my favorite new authors, Tim Federle ("Engaging and Motivating Boys as Readers," Sunday, 11 a.m.-noon, Room 342)

• And the always amazing Sharon Robinson on a panel discussing diverse voices in children’s literature (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The Search for Literacy and Social Responsibility” Saturday, 11 a.m.-noon, Room 280).

Best of all, I love to see everyone and catch up.

Jennifer Serravalo (Literacy Consultant)

IRA is my favorite conference of the year. The sessions are always top-notch, and I enjoy seeing so many of the authors whom I admire and whose work I rely on every day.

I'm looking forward to sharing my recent research in a session entitled “Nonfiction Text Complexity: Assessing Comprehension, Setting Goals and Reaching Higher Standards” (Saturday, 11 a.m.-noon, Room 271-273).

(If you download the IRA app, you’ll see that Jennifer has a packed schedule.)

Robin Hoffman (Director, Sales & Product Programs, Book Fairs)

Since Book Fairs is always encouraging independent reading, I’m looking forward to the presentation by Nancy Baumann called “Let’s Give ‘Em Something to Talk About: Using Book Clubs to Promote Recreational Reading.” The session will explore how book clubs provide a venue for honing discussion and critical thinking skills and developing reader routines (Saturday, 1 p.m.-2 p.m., Room 252-253).

Our own Scholastic colleague, Alice Ozma, will present “TechTalks: Peer-to-Peer Book Recommendations Using QR Code Booktalks.” Alice's session will combine the playfulness of technology with the joy of reading and spreading the word about great books, whether it’s student to student or teacher to teacher (Saturday, 4:45 p.m.-5:45 p.m., Room 348-349).

I also plan to attend “Creating Teachable Moments That Increase Reading Proficiency and Engagement.” The all-star panel of authors and illustrators includes Kirby Larson, Peter Sis and Eric Velazquez (Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Room 275).

Janelle Cherrington (Vice President & Publisher, Classroom Books)

I'd like to hear what David Pearson has to say. Pearson will discuss the research behind instructional practices that are worth keeping, and those that are not; how the Common Core can best serve the interests of students and teachers; and how technology, accountability and poverty will continue to affect student achievement.

Rafe Esquith, whose 10-year-old students at a public elementary school devour Twain, Dickens and Shakespeare, will precede Pearson. Esquith will show how he combines classic literature with music education to transform the lives of students (Monday, 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m., Exhibit Hall F).

We hope you enjoy IRA—and New Orleans.