Reading is a vital life skill teachers must develop to help students succeed both in academia and everyday society. Reading isn’t only about devouring books; it’s also important for filling out job applications, following road signs, understanding contracts, and more. Statistics show that two-thirds of Americans who can’t read proficiently by the fourth grade end up in prison or on welfare. That’s why schools are placing a greater emphasis on literacy education by hiring reading specialists. As their title suggests, reading specialists focus on helping students improve their reading and language skills. Most reading specialists work in elementary schools, but some play pivotal roles in secondary schools and adult literacy centers. Reading specialists give additional instruction to students struggling to read, including those with dyslexia and other disabilities.
According to PayScale, the average yearly salary for reading specialists in the United States is $49,908, which is equivalent to $29 per hour. Reading specialists employed at the elementary level make slightly less at $45,270, whereas those working in high schools bring home more with an average salary of $51,290 annually.
When just beginning their teaching career, reading specialists typically land in the bottom 10th percentile with a yearly income around $36,040. However, reading specialists with years of experience and teacher leadership roles can eventually make over $71,580 each year.
Reading specialists have the primary responsibility of leading their school’s literacy program to ensure all students have access to high-quality reading instruction. Reading specialists carry out literacy assessments to diagnose students with learning or cognitive disabilities. Most pull students from the classroom for specialized small group or one-on-one reading activities. Specialists will evaluate students’ reading strengths and weaknesses to provide advice for general education teachers. Reading specialists serve as literacy experts to consult with special educators, school psychologists, speech-language pathologists, principals, and librarians. Many will also promote literacy school-wide by planning exciting reading contests and rewards.
Becoming a reading specialist requires strong content knowledge across the literacy education spectrum. Reading specialists must have excellent communication skills to collaborate with teachers and discuss students’ reading needs. Since reading specialists work with many students across grade levels, organizational skills are crucial to maintain progress reports. Creative problem-solving skills are a must for reading specialists to build engaging lessons adapted to each student’s unique learning difficulties. Reading specialists need to have patience when students struggle to grasp certain content. Leadership skills are also important for reading specialists to lead literacy workshops and conferences. Reading specialists should be amiable, great with children, compassionate, and resourceful.
Degree and Education Requirements
Working in public PreK-12 school districts requires having at least a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited teacher preparation school. Most aspiring reading specialists start by earning an undergraduate major in early childhood education, elementary education, or special education. If you’re interested in teaching high school students, you may major in English or literature and minor in secondary education. Most states required certified reading specialists to attend graduate school for a master’s degree. Earning a Master of Education (M.Ed.) with reading education or literacy concentration is recommended. Make certain that your curriculum includes coursework on reading assessment, language difficulty detection, reading comprehension, phonics, linguistics, cognition, and writing intervention.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Being a reading specialist is both rewarding and challenging. On the positive side, reading specialists are given the ability to specialize in elementary, middle, or high school as well as adult literacy. Reading specialists have a decent salary potential that provides good benefits. Job prospects are favorable across several different educational settings. Reading specialists have the intrinsic reward of helping struggling readers improve their language skills. This teaching job also comes with summer and holiday breaks. On the other hand, reading specialists must invest significantly in their education and professional development to maintain certification. They must collaborate with teachers and administrators of varying personalities. Dealing with district politics and tight budget constraints can be frustrating. Reading specialists often will work long hours before and after the school day to regularly meet with parents.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, reading specialists must start their journey by becoming properly licensed to teach. Specific requirements vary by state, but most will require aspiring educators to pass the Praxis tests and a criminal background check. Once certified, reading specialists generally begin teaching at the elementary or secondary level. Having at least two to three years of classroom experience is strongly recommended. Then, start applying to graduate schools with an accredited M.Ed. program for reading specialists. Completing a field practicum or internship with students with reading difficulties is usually included. Begin networking with reading specialists in school placements to expand professional connections. The final step is to add the reading specialist endorsement to your teacher certification. Most states require a master’s degree, passing Praxis reading specialist exam scores, and applied experience.
Reading education in the United States is lagging behind other countries, so more school districts are placing an emphasis on literacy to improve standardized testing scores. Nearly all K-12 schools hire at least one reading specialist to design a successful literacy program. Jumps in enrollment and increased awareness on learning disabilities will also create job prospects for reading specialists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of teachers will grow by six percent through 2024. Around 87,800 elementary and 55,900 high school teaching jobs will open during the timeframe. Reading specialists can unlock job prospects in public or private schools, reading clinics, adult education programs, community centers, residential facilities, universities, and other educational institutions.
Overall, reading specialists are highly trained, specialized educators who focus on helping students of all ages improve their reading skills. Reading specialists have a meaningful vocation turning students’ learning disabilities into abilities using the written word. Their job also includes creating systematic change school-wide to promote literacy across grade levels. Reading specialists use their creativity to make learning phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension exciting. If you become a reading specialist, you’ll have the valuable opportunity to instill in students a passion and appreciation for books. Reading specialists can also launch into leadership roles like literacy coach, curriculum developer, or instructional coordinator.