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Definition of a Reading Specialist Clarified!

written by: •edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 1/5/2011

The definition of a reading specialist is best understood through the words of the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire who said, teaching children to "read the word," allows them to "read the world." A position as a reading specialist usually requires a Master of Arts degree.

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    Accepting the Challenge

    While a love of reading is the obvious reason to acquire a Reading Specialist Master of Arts degree, there is much more to the decision. Candidates for the degree have a multitude of areas to employ the skills garnered from this degree.

    Within the K-12 school setting, reading teachers assess students' ability to read, promote literacy, and assist in developing reading curriculum. The skill set needed for this teaching position includes the ability to work with various ages and learning levels of students, a deep understanding of the power of literacy and a passion for the written word.

    However, school is not the only setting for a career as a specialist in reading. Other opportunities include literacy programs, both nonprofit and for profit; English as a second language programs; professional development for teachers/librarians; and tutors for children and adults.

    Those who specialize in reading can also be found within the publishing world, both as writers and editors. After all, books are a reading specialist's passion.

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    What's in a Name?

    Part of the difficulty in understanding the definition of a reading specialist is that the Master of Arts degree to become one is labeled various ways, including: Reading Education, Reading and Language Arts Specialist, Reading and Writing, Reading and Literacy, to name a few. However, they are in essence the same degree providing expertise for the same career - reading specialist.

    Some academic institutions award a Reading Specialist Master of Education degree. While the requirements are the same, there is more focus on the education component of the degree.

    Additionally, there are now institutions of higher learning that award a Master's degree in Reading online!

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    Where to Go

    Colleges and Universities offering the reading specialist Master of Arts degree include:

    Teachers College at Columbia University - full-time students taking classes both semesters and during the summer can complete this degree in one year.

    Central Michigan University - this degree meets the requirements for the Michigan Board of Education's Reading Specialist Endorsement.

    St. Mary's College of California - this is a combined reading and language arts degree.

    Georgia State University - this is a Master of Arts in Teaching Reading, Language and Literacy Education.

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    Requirements for Degree Completion

    Depending on the institution chosen, there are various requirements necessary to complete a reading specialist Master of Arts degree. Some of the requirements are:

    • courses in adult and child literacy
    • courses in child development
    • courses in psychology
    • course in reading/writing disabilities
    • practicum in literacy assessment and intervention
    • leadership project or Master's thesis

    Upon completion of the degree program, some states require application for licensure. Licensure or certification has its own set of requirements. Degree candidates are advised to review these carefully before graduation.

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    Resources

    All Education Schools - http://www.alleducationschools.com/faqs/reading-education

    Teachers College at Columbia University - http://www.tc.columbia.edu/hbs/reading-specialist