Roles of the Reading Specialist

Because reading specialists have advanced degrees in reading, they are in a position to prevent reading failure at their schools. This position statement describes the roles reading specialists can play in instruction, assessment, and school leadership.

Teaching all children to read requires that every child receive excellent reading instruction and that children who are struggling with reading receive additional instruction from professionals specifically prepared to teach them. Teaching all children to read also requires reading specialists in every school because the range of student achievement in classrooms, with the inclusion of children who have various physical, emotional, and educational needs, requires different educational models from those of the past.

In order to provide these services, schools must have reading specialists who can provide expert instruction, assessment, and leadership for the reading program. Reading specialists are professionals with advanced preparation and experience in reading who have responsibility for the literacy performance of readers in general and struggling readers in particular. This includes early childhood, elementary, middle, secondary, and adult learners. Learners can be in public, private, and commercial schools, or in reading resource centers or clinics.

The International Reading Association's recommendations for the roles of the reading specialist in the three specific areas mentioned above include the following:


The reading specialist supports, supplements and extends classroom teaching, and works collaboratively to implement a quality reading program that is research-based and meets the needs of students.


The reading specialist has specialized knowledge of assessment and diagnosis that is vital for developing, implementing, and evaluating the literacy program in general, and in designing instruction for individual students. He or she can assess the reading strengths and needs of students and provide that information to classroom teachers, parents, and specialized personnel such as psychologists, special educators, or speech teachers, in order to provide an effective reading program.


The reading specialist provides leadership as a resource to other educators, parents and the community.

Roles of the Reading Specialist: Summary of position statement (March, 2000). International Reading Association. Reprinted with permission.

Read or purchase the full text of IRA's position statement, Roles of the Reading Specialist on IRA's web site:


For any reprint requests, please contact the author or publisher listed.


Trying to save money in district?A paraprofessional who has been involved in reading and literacy programs for quite awhile can also do a pretty decent job as an interventionist.One of the biggest qualities I think an interventionist needs is something they don't learn in school - its called intuition. If you have good intuition and flexibility and experience, you will do alright because data collecting, reading it and interpreting it is the easier part of the job.Often the teachers really value the input of the experienced para as a second set of eyes and ears.

Yeah, as for your "trying to save money in a district" add-on here at the end, no para is going to have the educational background necessary to provide the role an actual literacy specialist provides. How insulting to literacy specialists who spent the time, money, and effort going through a master's program to gain the educational knowledge and experience necessary to work with struggling readers that you would say that.

Thank you Kim! I just completed my Master's and Reading Endorsement and I have learned so much more about reading, interventions, assessments, etc.... plus my six years of teaching experience. A good para is great but, in no way can they replace a good reading specialist.

Agreed! Unfortunately our district is deleting the reading specialist role to save money. They have all been offered classroom positions, and now every Gen. Ed. teacher will be responsible for giving extra interventions to their struggling readers. People who have no idea about a reading specialist's expertise are making recommendations in a school where we a have a huge population of students reading below grade level. What they need is more reading specialists. Instead they have nixed all of them. In the end, it's the students who will suffer the most for these poor decisions.

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