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NewsAug 9, 2018

Literacy leaders win award for collaboration

Professor Irene Fountas and colleague Gay Su Pinnell honored for long-time partnership

Headshots of Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell
Left to right: Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell

Lesley Professor Irene Fountas and colleague Gay Su Pinnell are the 2018 recipients of the International Literacy Association’s Diane Lapp & James Flood Professional Collaborator Award. The two, who have co-authored numerous books on literacy and education, received the award at the Literacy Leaders Awards Ceremony in Austin, Texas, on July 23.

Fountas studied under both Lapp and Flood (the latter died in 2007) and considered them both mentors.

“To receive an award from people who played a significant role in my professional development was quite moving,” said Fountas. “They were two very brilliant and wonderful collaborators who made enormous contributions to the field.”

The new award recognizes an ongoing professional collaboration among people who regularly contribute to the professional knowledge base of literacy educators. Fountas, who directs the Center for Reading Recovery & Literacy Collaborative at Lesley became interested in literacy as a young teacher.

“I was very taken aback by children who could not read and wanted to learn more about how I could help them,” she said.

Fountas became a literacy specialist, coaching teachers and working directly with children who had difficulty reading. Her mentoring role caught the attention of Lesley, and she began teaching part time in 1982 and full time in the 1990s. It was during this time that Fountas and Pinnell met at a Lesley literacy institute, and again while Fountas worked on her post-doctorate at Ohio State University, where Pinnell is a faculty member.

The two began to collaborate soon after, united in their goal to equip educators with the tools to teach children with reading challenges. Fountas and Pinnell’s partnership eventually led them to publish dozens of books and articles centered on literacy for educators and to launch the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Community, an online resource.

“I think we learn a lot from each other, and I think we have a lot of common perspectives around literacy and professional development,” Fountas said. “We’ve had a good friendship and a good professional relationship.”

Fountas and Pinnell’s collective and comprehensive literacy work includes a cohesive classroom literacy system (“Fountas & Pinnell Classroom”), an intervention system (“Leveled Literacy Intervention”), an assessment system (“Benchmark Assessment System”), an extensive professional book base and professional learning opportunities — all published by Heinemann, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Pinnell, who received an honorary doctorate from Lesley in 2018, and Fountas are now at work on “The School Leaders’ Literacy Handbook,” a publication that will help school administrators create literacy opportunities for every child in their institution.