Faculty members serve, lead and learn as co-editors of ‘Michigan Reading Journal’

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Professor Poonam Arya and Associate Professor Kathryn Roberts are passionate about reading. The pair not only teach courses and conduct research related to reading, language and literature, but they also serve as co-editors of the Michigan Reading Journal.  

Published three times a year by the Michigan Reading Association, the Michigan Reading Journal is distributed to 6,000 educators throughout the state. Editorship generally rotates between Michigan universities for three-year periods. Two years ago, the board asked Arya and Roberts to assume responsibility for editing the publication. The pair have completed six of the nine issues that will be published under their leadership. Every issue includes approximately 10 to 12 articles. 

Associate Professor Kathryn Roberts
Kathryn Roberts

“We solicit articles from researchers, teachers, literacy coaches, principals — all sorts of people who have a vested interest in literacy,” said Roberts.  “When articles come in, we — along with research assistants Sarah Schrag and Angela Harris — review them, ensure they meet the criteria, determine whether they are a good fit for our audience, and then help writers navigate the revision and editing process to produce a publishable piece.” 

“The journal also includes a segment called ‘Critical Issues,’” added Arya. “In this segment, we reach out to researchers of national repute and highlight their work.” 

Roberts believes the journal is important and unique because it makes research accessible to a practitioner audience. 

“The Michigan Reading Journal is an important access point for teachers, administrators and faculty members in literacy. They do not have access to many of the academic journals we read because they are not members of organizations that publish them or they do not have access to library resources through institutions of higher education,” said Roberts. “While we publish full research reports, everything has to be both rigorous and accessible to a practitioner audience.”  

Arya noted that the publication empowers teachers to enhance their instructional practices by applying research-based strategies in their classrooms. 

Professor Poonam Arya
Poonam Arya

“The journal includes a good mix of research articles and practitioner pieces that provide practical suggestions practitioners can use,” said Arya. “It encourages teachers and others to think about best practices, the future of the field and other issues that require our attention, including standards and literacy essential practices. How can we take all those movements and translate them into something meaningful and effective in terms of classroom instructional practices? When teachers apply new strategies, they can do so with a deeper understanding of the theoretical foundation and research context behind whatever instructional practices they choose.” 

Arya and Roberts meet weekly, but the amount of time they spend working on the journal varies depending on what needs to be done. As co-editors, they also are board members of the Michigan Reading Association, which involves attending three to four meetings a year. They also attend the Michigan Reading Conference, which is held annually in March. In addition to reviewing presentation proposals, they may introduce speakers, assist staff with registration tables or encourage presenters to turn their presentations into articles. During their first year, Arya and Roberts facilitated a session to inform participants about the journal’s submission process.  

While the pair agree that editing the journal is a great deal of work, they also find it rewarding because it allows them to serve the field and the state. Roberts also says it gives them the chance to expose students in their courses to research-based instructional strategies. 

“We incorporate much of what we learn from the articles we review into our coursework,” said Roberts. “One study was about using art pen pals to support children’s writing and reading comprehension. I shared that process with my students, and they were able to try it with their students. It was really neat and fun to watch.” 

Arya said their work also benefits graduate students by providing them with opportunities to get published and gain professional experience.  

“For example, one doctoral student wrote an article, and a few have co-authored articles or book reviews with faculty members. As authors, they get experience writing for a journal. Another doctoral student helps with formatting, APA style and proofreading. She is learning the mechanics of running a journal. Other doctoral students are on the editing team — some review submissions, while others copy edit articles that have been accepted and revised.” 

As Arya and Roberts prepare to begin their last year of service as co-editors, they noted that their role also brings additional recognition to the college and university.  

“Kate and I write a letter from the editors for every issue, and we have a presence at board meetings and the annual conference,” Arya said. “All of these things put the Wayne State name out there.” 

by Tracy A. Walker