The ability to read is arguably the most important tool we have to enable us to learn. A reading specialist works with students and with schools to ensure the school’s reading and literacy programs are being implemented properly. A reading specialist coordinates reading programs across grade levels, making sure they are cohesive and effective. Other programs are also coordinated with the literacy programs, including ESL, ESE, and preliminary reading classes in Pre-K. The reading specialist will also be sure individual students receive the best possible instruction and education to meet their goals. Students who need special help will receive it, as will teachers who might need guidance providing individualized instruction. Teachers also receive guidance from the reading specialist regarding the school’s literacy programs. Beyond the duties inside the school, a reading specialist also helps explain programs to parents and make the community aware of the school’s programs.
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According to Payscale.com, the average salary for a reading specialist is approximately $49,000 per year. Wages tend to be higher for elementary and secondary school specialists, with middle school falling a bit lower.
Beginning salaries for reading specialists vary, with a typical starting wage beginning at about $30-40,000 per year.
The reading specialist develops and coordinates all the reading and literacy programs within a district. This could include traveling to individual schools to work with administrators and teachers on program implementation. You might hold conferences, sit in on individual classrooms, or work with individual students who need extra help. This includes horizontal consistency across different schools of the same grade level as well as vertical consistency as students progress from one grade to the next.
A reading specialist must understand reading and literacy theory and practice. You must also be able to communicate clearly. You need to be comfortable speaking in front of groups. Experience teaching adults in a workshop or conference environment is a helpful skill for this career, as is experience teaching children. You need to be able to see the big picture in order to ensure literacy programs are consistent, and to relate to the small picture of individual students who might be struggling to learn to read or who might need a more accelerated program to meet their needs.
Degree and Education Requirements
Most reading specialist positions require at least a master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as a certificate in reading, which helps ensure that credentialed teachers meet any additional requirements on the local, state, or federal level. Many request that applicants be trained to administer Gesell testing, which assesses the developmental level of individual students. This helps you make decisions about curriculum and individualized learning that are designed to meet the needs of your students.
Other master’s degrees applicable to a job as a reading specialist include a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master of Education degree. Different states might require different degrees and different certifications before you are eligible for this job, so be sure to check local and state requirements. In general, the more extensive your education, the more likely you are to acquire a job with a larger district and with a larger salary.
Rewards and Challenges
Reading specialists ensure the district tends to the needs of all students, even those with reading difficulties. Making sure reading and literacy programs are effective and consistently implemented helps all the children in the district learn more efficiently and lays the groundwork for their future educations and careers. Working with individual students means you get to see the real, immediate effects of your job rather than seeing results in the abstract.
Challenges reading specialists often face include long hours, including working a full year instead of having the summer off. Working with district politics and the variety of personalities among the teaching and administrative staff can be difficult. It can also be frustrating to deal with everyday challenges with individual students who may be struggling with issues like poverty or learning disabilities. However, it can also be profoundly rewarding to see these students prosper.
To start your journey, find out what qualifications are required for the job. This includes education, but also includes licensing and certification. Research requirements in your state as well as national requirements. Find a reading specialist at a local school district—maybe the one where you attended high school—and find out what they recommend to get you off on the right foot. If you’re a high school student planning your career, talk to your counselor about ways to increase your desirability for colleges as well as future employers.
Most reading specialist positions require previous teaching experience. Many also require experience presenting workshops, conferences, and other educational opportunities to teachers. Experience with curriculum development and integrating curriculum across schools and grade levels is also a great thing to have on your resume.
Literacy in schools is vital to ensure students learn efficiently and also to ensure schools are meeting their reading and literacy goals in order to meet local and federal education standards. For this reason, reading specialists are in demand in the job market overall. From private to public schools to the ever-growing list of charter schools, every educational outlet for K-12 will need a reading specialist at some point. Your career as a reading specialist can lead you to even more rewarding, meaningful, and lucrative jobs. Not only are reading and literacy specialists in demand, but this career is a good springboard from which to move into administrative positions or curriculum development for an entire school system or district. With the qualifications and education to pursue this career, you’ll be able to help students grow and improve from the beginning reader to students who need remedial learning before entering college.
A career as a reading specialist is an important and meaningful vocation. Jobs can be found in primary and secondary schools and even in colleges and universities where students need help improving their reading skills before pursing their degree. As a reading specialist, you can truly make a difference.