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Doctoral student Jon Kittle receives International Literacy Association fellowship to support research in literacy

With a fellowship from the International Literacy Association (ILA), University of Delaware doctoral student Jon Kittle is working on new research that will support reading specialists as they teach multilingual learners, students whose first language is not English. In Delaware, just over 11% of all K-12 students are multilingual learners, and many of these students benefit from specialized support as they learn to read, write and speak English.

Kittle, a student in the College of Education and Human Development’s (CEHD) Ph.D. in education program, received the ILA’s prestigious Jeanne S. Chall Research Fellowship. The fellowship, which includes a $5,000 grant, supports research by promising scholars in the areas of beginning reading (theory, research and practice that improves the effectiveness of learning to read), readability (methods of predicting the difficulty of texts) and reading difficulty (diagnosis, treatment and prevention), among others.

Kittle plans to pursue a dissertation that will examine reading specialists’ knowledge of how K-3 Spanish-speaking multilingual learners’ home language and literacy skills can support the development of their English language and literacy skills. He hopes to also examine how reading specialists can facilitate the transfer of these skills to provide more effective literacy instruction.

“Understanding how Spanish-speaking multilingual learners’ home language and literacy is related to English language and literacy skills through cross-linguistic transfer and how reading specialists can facilitate cross-linguistic transfer through instruction is a critical area of education,” Kittle said. “This research has the potential to contribute to state reading specialist licensure requirements and to reading specialist preparation programs as they seek to provide effective reading instruction to Spanish-speaking multilingual learners.”

Steve Amendum, professor and interim associate director of CEHD’s School of Education, will advise Kittle as he continues this work.

“Jon’s original research on how reading specialists are prepared to teach multilingual learners is unique and innovative,” Amendum said. “To my knowledge, there are few researchers working in this important space at the intersection of literacy education and multilingual learner education.”

Kittle’s research interests in language, literacy development and instruction for multilingual learners stem from his experiences serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, Panamá, an AmeriCorps Delaware reading interventionist with Spanish-speaking children and as a faculty member working with diverse learners at UD’s English Language Institute.

Through these experiences, Kittle saw how language and literacy can act as a barrier to accessing information, communicating effectively and pursuing academic and personal goals. He decided to pursue a doctoral degree at CEHD after realizing that he wanted to develop and translate advanced knowledge related to multilingual learner literacy, language development and instruction.

“The Ph.D. in education program has provided me with the research skills and collaborative relationships to make my goals a reality,” Kitte said. “I’ve taken rigorous coursework with Drs. Christina Barbieri, Henry May, Rosalie Rolón-Dow and Elizabeth Farley-Ripple to develop my quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research skills. I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with my advisor, Dr. Steve Amendum, and other faculty including Drs. Christina Budde, Stephanie Del Tufo and Bryan VanGronigen on research projects where I have applied these skills to develop advanced knowledge related to multilingual learners’ learning.”

“Receiving the ILA’s Jeanne S. Chall Research Fellowship would not have been possible without all of the support I have received through the College and the Ph.D. program,” Kittle added.

To learn more about Kittle, read his student biography. To learn more about CEHD research in literacy and language, visit its research page.

Article by Jessica Henderson.

Header image caption: Jon Kittle is a doctoral student in CEHD’s Ph.D. in education program.