History of Literacy
Delegates Assembly Adopts History Resolution

History of Reading News. Vol.XXII No.2 (1999:Spring)

The Delegates Assembly of the International Reading Association adopted the following resolution during its 42nd National Convention in May, 1997:
      Resolution on the History of Reading/Literacy
      WHEREAS historical knowledge develops an understanding of the forces that influence the present and future and provides a context and perspective that is critical to addressing important issues and challenges, and
      WHEREAS the study of the history of the field of reading/literacy offers an invaluable perspective for addressing current concerns and for planning the future of the profession, therefore, be it
      RESOLVED that the International Reading Association urges that the professional preparation of reading/ literacy professionals including classroom teachers, reading specialists, teacher educators, and other researchers in-clude developing an appreciation and understanding of the history of the field of reading/literacy, and be it further
      RESOLVED that the International Reading Association urges editors and publishers to actively encourage scholars to address the topic of the history of reading/literacy and to be receptive to publish [sic] the work of those scholars for appropriate audiences and other professional organizations.

The Board of Directors at the time of adoption of this resolution consisted of Richard T. Vacca, President; John J. Pikulski, President-elect: Kathryn Ransom, Vice President, and Alan E. Farstrup, Executive Director, along with John Elkins, Yetta M. Goodman, Barbara J. Walker, Richard L. Allington, James F. Baumann, Kathleen Stumpf Jongsma, James V. Hoffman, John W. Logan, and Lesley M. Morrow.

Present and Past Resolutions.

The passage of the 1997 Resolution owed much to the energy and support of then Vice President Jack Pikulski, who in October 1996 suggested that a revised resolution on the history of reading be framed, passed by the Board of Directors, and submitted to the Delegates Assembly for a vote.

Those of our readers with long memories will recall that the only previous IRA resolution on the history of reading was passed at the 26th annual convention of the IRA, in April, 1981. (For details, see the History of Reading News 5, no. 1 [Winter 1981-Spring 1982], 1-2.) The "RESOLVED" portion of that resolution read as follows:
      RESOLVED, that IRA seek to increase the number of historical papers published and to schedule additional historical sessions and symposia at regional meetings and conventions.

The 1981 resolution was not initiated (unlike its 1997 counterpart) by the IRA Board of Directors. Instead, it was proposed by SIG members and introduced at the floor of the Delegates Assembly. Janet A. Miller, then treasurer- secretary of the SIG, shepherded the resolution from its inception to its final passage.

Its passage did not go smoothly. The resolution's wording had originally included another "[BE IT] RESOLVED" statement that urged the IRA to demonstrate its recognition of the relevance of historical knowledge and research by encouraging institutions to grant doctoral degrees which required a course in the history of reading as part of the degree program, by supporting doctoral students who desired to include historical studies and research techniques in their programs, and by supporting doctoral candidates who wished to undertake historical research for their dissertations.

Several delegates spoke strongly against this portion of the resolution, arguing that it was an infringement on the rights of individual university departments to set their own curricula and requirements for their doctoral degrees. The resolution was only passed when this portion of the resolution was eliminated from the text.

Nonetheless, the passage of any resolution in 1981 was regarded by the SIG as an achievement. As June Gilstad, then SIG president, remarked at the time: "passage of this resolution...cannot but provide members of this Special Interest Group with a special sense of triumph and satisfaction, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it presents a considerable challenge as well."

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