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Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction marks 50th year

Longtime CLaRI director Michael Kibby, now an emeritus professor, works with a graduate student.


Published June 19, 2014

“It’s wonderful to see these teachers sit back and take stock of their own teaching.”
Mary McVee, director
Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction

UB’s Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction (CLaRI) will mark its 50th year of helping children read, write and gain confidence in their academic skills with a conference and alumni gathering that celebrate its timeless theme of literacy.

The anniversary weekend will open with a reunion of current literacy students and alumni from 5:30 to 7 p.m. June 28 in the Buffalo Marriott Niagara, 1340 Millersport Highway, Amherst.

The weekend will continue on June 29 with a “Looking Back, Moving Forward” literacy-themed program. The program, to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in 17 Baldy Hall, North Campus, will feature four 50-minute presentations and a conference keynote by Taffy E. Raphael, professor of literacy education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and president of SchoolRise LLC. Raphael, who conducts research on literacy and school change, will speak on “Going Beyond the Common Core: Fostering Ownership to Build Sustainable School Change in a High Stakes Environment.”

Literacy sessions will be held throughout the day for pre-K, elementary, middle school and high school teachers, as well as administrators. Teacher educators and researchers will find research sessions relevant to their education and professional development.

Conference sessions will include “Flippin’ Out: Drama and New Literacies in the High School Classroom,” “Learning to Learn: Exploring a Writing Genre Study with Sixth-Grade Students,” “Listening to Elephants: Teaching English Language Learners Through Gestures and Visual Cues,” “Music Play Goes to Preschool: A Natural Way to Enhance Emergent Literacy” and “Looking for the Promised Land: Job and Interview Advice for Recent and Soon-to-Graduate Students and Novice Teachers.”

The keynote speech by Raphael will take place from 3:15-4:30 p.m. A full schedule of session titles and registration information are available on CLaRI’s website or by contacting Ashlee Ebert, CLaRI associate director, at 716-645-1058 or Cost is $40 in advance with breakfast, lunch and snacks provided.

CLaRI’s 50th anniversary conference is an opportunity to hear the latest in literacy research and best practices, as well as acknowledge the organization’s proud tradition, according to Mary McVee, director of CLaRI and UB associate professor of literacy education. This important work began in 1963 by UB Professor William “Bill” Eller, who founded the reading clinic that since has become the Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction.

McVee says CLaRI also wants to acknowledge the good work that continued under the leadership Michael Kibby. Kibby, now an emeritus professor, served as director of the center from 1971-2007 and also was chair of UB’s Department of Learning and Instruction for 13 years. Though he retired in 2008, Kibby’s influence is still present in CLaRI’s emphasis on putting children first and helping teachers recognize that they are the catalysts who help change failure in reading and writing into success, McVee says. 

“In recent years, we have been successful in broadening the scope of CLaRI programs beyond one-to-one tutoring to small-group tutoring during the summer in two local school districts. Most recently, we are working with Maryvale and Amherst Central schools,” she said. “Our work also includes summer camp and reading maintenance programs.”

Research always has been one of CLaRI’s primary focuses, McVee points out, but the center has expanded in other ways to help children develop as readers and increase their confidence in their academic abilities.

“In recent years, we have ratcheted up our efforts so that we now have many faculty working collaboratively on projects around a variety of research topics,” says McVee.

CLaRI recently published research related to the use of video study groups in educating literacy teachers and digital literacies, McVee says. Other CLaRI activities include projects involving teacher reflection with novice teachers.

“It’s wonderful to see these teachers sit back and take stock of their own teaching,” says McVee. “In an age of top-down enforced accountability, we are trying to instill and nurture literacy teachers who will be self-evaluative, self-reflective and confident in their professional skills because they are highly trained with deep, specialized knowledge in literacy.”

McVee says those committed to CLaRI’s mission recognize the fundamental value that traditional reading and writing have for children and youth in our society, and how those principles are essential to development of our country’s future. 

“Reading and writing can bring great knowledge and insight,” she notes. “And digital technologies provide lots of wonderful opportunities for teachers and children to engage with literacy, and even allow children to engage with others from around the world.”