"Mass Reading" President Nancy Witherell spoke to Reading Today Online about the many exciting council projects, including their April 2012 conference.
1. Are you especially proud of any of your council’s projects?
The Massachusetts Reading Association is a dynamic, progressive, and goal oriented organization. There are so many projects that Mass Reading is proud to lead or that we are connected with in some way. We have a number of highly active committees; our advocacy committee co-chairs, Evelyn Wall and Cynthia Rizzo, have invited our new Early Education Commissioner Sheri Killins to receive our Advocacy Award at this year’s conference.
Our Studies and Research Committee Co-chairs, Pamela Mason and Sheelah Sweeny, have just released a white paper entitled “Research-based Practices in Vocabulary Instruction: An Analysis of What Works in Grades PreK-12,” a summary of effective researched-based vocabulary practices that can be found at Resources on www.massreading.org. We have several committees that are hard at work to foster literacy in Massachusetts and beyond. Our international project, in which MRA, MACURE (Massachusetts Association of College and Reading Educators council), and the Rotary Club of the Bridgewaters have pooled their resources, promotes and maintains adult and family literacy programs in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as opportunities for outreach, service, and research for Massachusetts educators and Rotarians. We have to thank Dr. Ruth Farrar of Bridgewater State University for leading this wonderful effort. Furthermore, our Families and Early Childhood Literacy Committee, co-chaired by Nancy Verdolino and Nancy Clark-Chiarelli, have created a partnership with Horizons for Homeless Children in which we collect and donate books to this organization.
MRA also gives out numerous awards yearly to honor those who work hard for literacy and let them know their efforts are appreciated. We have the Literacy Award for someone who has given outstanding efforts in literacy, the Legislative Award for a politician who has supported literacy in any area, the Exemplary Reading Award for a school that has documented a commendable reading program, and a Literature Award giving to an award winning author. Last year’s recipient was the Newbery Award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan, and this year’s recipient will be Rosemary Wells. We remember our researchers and students through our Sylvia D. Brown Scholarship and Donald L. Landry Scholarship, which offers a lucky winner free registration for our annual conference.
In conclusion, one of the areas in which Mass Reading is most proud is our local councils. They are always busy planning programs and events. The majority of our councils work diligently and tirelessly to gain Honor Council status. This, of course, involves hours of volunteer work either setting up local programs for their council or organizing what is necessary to fulfill minigrant obligations, and other public and professional services to their districts. Our local councils support Mass Reading in multiple ways and are the backbone of our organization.
2. What are the benefits of joining your council?
Members of Mass Reading can become instantly involved in our social networking sites from friending us on Facebook, tweeting comments and getting tweets, to joining a specialized NING group, such much is always happeNING at MRA. We have numerous benefits, including an annual two-day conference, which this year takes place on April 12 and 13 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA. Our Conference Chair, Sherry Sausville is busy putting the final touches to what is promising to be one fantastic journey into “Comprehension: Imagine That!” This will be our first conference at which we have been able to offer free wireless connections for all attendees.
We are lucky to have IRA’s Carrice Cummings speaking. Last year, we had the great fortune to have Vicki Risko keynote for us! We have a fall institute every other year in which we try to focus on current issues in literacy education.
Our bi-annual publication, MRA’s Primer is a membership benefit that includes articles of research-based programs and instruction, and reviews of professional and children’s books. Our fall Primer is published calendar style and offers author’s birthdates. We also published our newsletter, The Connection, which keeps our members aware of current MRA and state events.
3. Are there any future projects in store for your council?
There are always future projects on our horizon. Board members have begun the planning for our Fall 12 Institute. The Research and Studies committee members are hard at work deciding their next topic; our Diversity Committee is up and running working on its action plan. The planning never stops for our annual conferences; the keynote presenter lineup is well set for our 44th Annual Conference, which will take place on April 4 and 5, 2013 at the Boston Quincy Marriott in Quincy, Massachusetts.
4. How does one join your council?
Simply, join us at www.massreading.org or connect through Facebook www.facebook.com/MAreads, or Twitter @mraread.
5. Is there a website, newsletter, or another way to find out more information about your council? Is there a person that prospective members can contact?
We offer much information at our website www.massreading.org, which our webmaster, Joan Tuttle, diligently updates regularly. Our Conference Administrative Assistant and Vice President, Nancy Meagher will answer any questions. MRA can be reached through our website menu bar under “Contact Us” or e-mail Nancy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to e-mail the President, Nancy Witherell, at email@example.com. Our phone number is 1-877-GROW-MRA (476-9672) The mailing address is MRA, PO Box 426, West Barnstable, MA 02668.
MRA President Nancy Witherall.
Massachusetts Honor Council Recipients from 2010-11 (from left to right): IRA State Coordinator: Terrie Marr; Council Presidents or Representatives: Jean Helstrom, Martha Strachan, Jan Standring, Pamela Mason, Valerie Hytholt, Cathy Salvini, Judy Werner. Missing from photo: Mary Ellen Caesar, Pamela Lavockin, Lori DiGisi, Sherry Alleman, and Bonnie Standring.