Reading is one of the most essential skills students learn because they will use it not only in all of their subject classes but also in their everyday adult lives. Students who have difficulty reading because of learning disabilities or insufficient knowledge of English face a distinct liability in the modern world. If you love the printed word, can’t imagine living without it, and have a sincere desire to help open the world of reading to those who can’t, you can become a reading teacher or reading specialist.
Reading specialists are qualified teachers who have been specifically trained in spelling, vocabulary, writing, language and reading comprehension, and the relationships between letters, letter arrangements, and their subsequent sounds. They conduct assessments of individual students to ascertain their reading skills and create reading plans specifically tailored to their abilities. They then work with students either one-on-one or in groups on reading activities that will gradually help improve their skills and bring them to grade-appropriate levels. They also confer with parents and other teachers on approaches that can be used at home and in other subject classes to improve students’ reading.
- Teacher Education and Certification. The requirements for becoming a reading teacher are basically the same as for any other teacher. You must first meet your state’s specific teaching certification requirements, usually by earning a four-year bachelor’s degree such as a bachelor of science in language arts education, where you receive a broad liberal arts background as well as specific teacher education courses in educational theory and curriculum planning. You can also earn a related degree such as a bachelor of arts in English literature and go through a separate teacher education program. After a semester of supervised student teaching, you must then pass an assessment exam and become licensed or certified for whatever grade level you have chosen to teach.
- Master’s Degree. Because a reading specialist is an acknowledged expert in the area of literacy, however, you need more advanced credentials than just a bachelor’s degree. Almost all states require reading specialists to go on to earn master’s degrees with a concentration in reading, such as a master of education in reading education, a master of science in reading and literacy, or a master of arts in teaching with a reading specialization. You can usually earn this degree while teaching your preferred grade level. You may also have to pass a state reading teacher exam and meet any other specific requirements your state may have before you can become certified as a specialist.
- National Certification. Many reading teachers also decide to seek national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This credential confirms that you have met the highest professional standards in your area of teaching. It also is a highly respected qualification that usually results in larger salaries, influence in educational policies and curricula, and the freedom to teach in many other states without meeting their specific licensing requirements. Earning NBPTS certification in reading and language arts takes about three years, during which you will document your classroom and reading-related extracurricular activities to demonstrate your proficiency. You must also pass six 30-minute, computer-based assessment exercises in literacy, which you can take at testing centers around the country.