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What’s Hot in Literacy

Mother-tongue literacy, access, and equity under-recognized

A new report released by the International Literacy Association (ILA) reveals wide gaps between what’s truly valuable to educators around the globe and what’s getting the most attention from the media and policymakers.

The ILA 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report provides a snapshot of what 2,097 literacy professionals from 91 countries and territories deem the most critical topics to advancing literacy worldwide.

The survey asked respondents to rate 17 literacy-related topics in terms of what’s hot and what’s important. Topping the hot list for the second year in a row: Digital Literacy, despite it dropping in terms of importance from No. 8 in 2017 to No. 13.

On the other hand, Access to Books and Content, Mother Tongue Literacy, and Equity in Literacy Education ranked significantly higher in importance than they did on heat. These gaps reflect the challenges of teaching in today’s world, such as a rise in racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity; a growing number of English learners; and an unequitable distribution of resources in classrooms— and illustrate a growing number of unmet needs in these areas.

“We learned that many educators, working with increasingly diverse student bodies, do not have sufficient training, parental support, or resources to respond to student needs,” said ILA executive director Marcie Craig Post. “This survey helps us to identify where more support is needed so we can provide solutions.”

Respondents recognized positive early literacy experiences, family engagement, and professional preparation and development as among the most critical factors for advancing literacy for all.

Equity and access go hand in hand


Respondents indicated not only that issues of both equity and access should be a higher priority, but many also remarked that schools bear the responsibility of providing equitable opportunities and resources for all students.


  • According to 86% of respondents, Equity in Literacy Education is extremely or very important, placing it in the No. 2
  • Access to Books and Content—giving students access to content and books that are relevant for all learners, for both pleasure and academic reading—is rated extremely or very important by 82% of all
  • Outside of the U.S., 71% of respondents said Mother Tongue Literacy is very or extremely important, compared with 62% of respondents from the U.S. where respondents are also less likely to say this topic is
  • Strategies for Differentiating Instruction—tailoring instruction to accommodate each individual student’s needs—ranks among the top five most important and hottest topics overall.

The community–literacy connection


One of the greatest predictors of lifelong success, early literacy experiences create the foundation for learning in all subject areas. Many respondents remarked on the importance of exposing young children to books, words, and stories—early and often. Respondents also noted the importance of involving families and community-based organizations in these early literacy activities.


  • Early Literacy remains the No. 1 most important topic for the second year and ranks as the second hottest topic
  • Only 35% of respondents said Family Engagement is very or extremely hot, whereas 79% of respondents believe that it is very or extremely

Excellence in literacy education

Another important aspect of equitable education is ensuring teachers’ readiness to respond to their students’ unique literacy strengths and needs. Respondents expressed that improvement initiatives often focus too much on standards and not enough on the conditions of teaching and learning in schools. Results show a desire for more preparation and knowledge for wider support and involvement across communities.


  • Teacher Preparation holds the highest gap among the topics, ranking No. 3 among important topics but No. 12 among hot
  • According to 73% of respondents, Administrators as Literacy Leaders is very or extremely important, but only 29% said that it’s very or extremely
  • Often associated with standardized tests, Summative Assessments—measurements of student achievement and acquisition of literacy skills at the conclusion of an instructional period—is viewed as a hot topic (at No. 3) but the least important (coming in at No. 17).

The full survey findings are available in the ILA 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, available at


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