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Annual Emma Eccles Jones Early Childhood Symposium

20th Annual Emma Eccles Jones Early Childhood Symposium
Advancing Reading Fluency & Comprehension in K-3 Grades

Sonia Cabell

Sonia Cabell, PhD

June 26 | Fostering Students’ Reading Comprehension through Buildling Language and Knowledge in K-3 Classrooms

This presentation will highlight the importance of building oral language skills and knowledge during the primary grades to support students’ successful reading comprehension. Research shows that a key way to build these skills is through content-rich, interactive read-alouds. Participants will learn techniques to provide high quality read-aloud experiences, including ways to support vocabulary learning, listening comprehension, and systematic knowledge-building in science and social studies domains.

Sonia Cabell is Assistant Professor in the College of Education and the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University. Her work focuses on the prevention of reading difficulties, particularly among children living in poverty. She has authored approximately 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals, numerous publications for practitioners, a preschool vocabulary curricular supplement, and a kindergarten writing curricular supplement. She currently serves as Associate Editor for the scholarly journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly. Dr. Cabell is the Principal Investigator on a multi-million dollar grant funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, testing the efficacy of the Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum on children’s growth in vocabulary, comprehension, and knowledge as they progress from kindergarten through grade two.

Slides Handout

Melanie Kuhn

Melanie Kuhn, Phd

June 27 | Helping Students Develop “Knowledge of Words and the World”

A major difference between successful readers and their less successful peers is exposure to oral and written language. Effective instruction can counter these differences. This presentation will look at the development of multiple reading elements across the elementary grades that underlie academic success. In so doing, it will present teachers with easy-to-implement instructional approaches to scaffold students’ literacy learning, vocabulary and comprehension development, and broader competence. Such instruction has the potential to decrease the achievement gap and create an environment that better assures students are capable of meeting curriculum requirements and literacy demands of the broader world.

Melanie R. Kuhn is The Jean Adamson Stanley Professor in Literacy at Purdue University. She began her teaching career in the Boston Public Schools, worked as a literacy coordinator for an adult education program, and spent three years as a clinician at an International School in England. She received her Ed. M. in Reading and Language at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, her M.Phil. in the Psychological Investigation of Intellectual Development at Cambridge University, and her Ph.D. in Reading Education from the University of Georgia. Her most recent book, Developing Fluent Readers: Teaching Fluency as a Foundational Skill with Lorell Levy, was published with Guilford Press. She has previously written two books on fluency, along with numerous articles and chapters. In addition to reading fluency, her research interests include literacy instruction for struggling readers, and the relationship between conceptual knowledge, vocabulary, and text comprehension. She has taught courses on reading methods, struggling readers, literacy assessment, and content area literacy instruction.

Under the direction of Dr. Cindy Jones, the 19th Annual Emma Eccles Jones Early Childhood Symposium was held June 27 - 28, 2017, at the Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown. Attendees experienced two days of great presentations and tasty food. 

Attendees at the conferenceThe 2017 Symposium focused on Phonemic Awareness and Phonics in K-3 Grades. 

Research evidence, collected over several decades, has clearly laid out the case that emerging readers must have a solid foundation in phonemic awareness and phonics. We have also learned that the primary cause of dyslexia is rooted in difficulty with phoneme processing. It is imperative that all educators who work with students in K-3 understand why these com­ponents of reading are so vital, how to quickly and efficiently assess students’ skill level in these areas, and how to plan and deliver effective instruction and powerful interventions.


The 2017 featured speakers were Jan Hasbrouck and Wiley Blevins.

June 27, Jan Hasbrouck presented Let’s Launch Successful Readers: Effective Instruction in Phonemic Awareness and Phonics in K-3.

Jan Hasbrouck PresentingIn this session, Dr. Hasbrouck defined phonemic awareness and phonics and provided an overview of the research on these foundational skills. She also shared practical, classroom-proven strategies to efficiently assess and effectively teach these skills.

Dr. Jan Hasbrouck is an educational consultant, author, and researcher. She served as Executive Consultant to the Washington State Reading Initiative and as an advisor to the Texas Reading Initiative. Dr. Hasbrouck worked as a reading specialist and literacy coach for 15 years before teaching at the University of Oregon and later as a professor at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Hasbrouck has provided educational consulting to individual schools across the United States as well as in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, and Germany, helping teachers, specialists, and administrators design and implement effective assessment and instructional programs targeted to help low performing readers.

Dr. Hasbrouck earned her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Oregon, and completed her Ph.D. at Texas A&M. Her research in areas of reading fluency, reading assessment, coaching, and second language learners has been published in numerous professional books and journals. She is the author and coauthor of several books including The Reading Coach: A How-to Manual for Success, RTI for Educational Leaders, Reading Fluency and several assessment tools. Dr. Hasbrouck works with the McGraw Hill publishers as an author of their Treasures and Wonders reading and intervention programs. In 2008, she and her colleague, Dr. Vicki Gibson partnered to form Gibson Hasbrouck & Associates, with the mission to provide high quality professional development to educators nationally and internationally.

June 28, Wiley Blevins presented A Fresh Look at Phonics.

Wiley Blevins PresentingIn this session, Dr. Wiley Blevins presented the key characteristics of strong phonics instruction. This presentation shared information about the readiness skills of phonemic awareness/alphabet recognition, sensible scope and sequence, blending, dictation, word awareness (word building and word sorts), high frequency words, connected text reading, and teacher expertise. Dr. Blevins highlighted the 10 common causes of phonics instructional failure. Participants learned about these instructional issues through a combination of discussion and hands-on exploration.

Dr. Blevins is an author and educational consultant living in New York City. He received his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Bowling Green State University. He completed graduate school at Harvard University. Dr. Blevins has taught elementary school in the United States and in South America, and was Director of Special Projects for Scholastic in New York City. He works with school districts around the United States, evaluating their teaching practices and use of instructional materials.

Dr. Blevins has conducted educational research on topics ranging from fluency to the use of decodable text, created reading instructional programs for companies such as Scholastic and McGraw-Hill, and has written over 15 books for teachers. These include: A Fresh Look at Phonics, Phonics from A to Z, Teaching Phonics and Word Study in the Intermediate Grades, Phonemic Awareness Activities for Early Reading Success, Building Fluency, and Teaching Nonfiction. He also writes children’s books, such as the Spooky Tales Retold series and the upcoming Ick and Crud early chapter book series.

In his recent book, A Fresh Look at Phonics, Dr. Blevins explains the ingredients of phonics instruction that lead to the greatest student gains, based on two decades of research in classrooms. His current interests include the use of adaptive technology and differentiated teacher training.

For more information about the Early Childhood Symposium, call Utah State University Literacy Clinic at (435) 797-8629 or send an email to 

The EEJ Early Childhood Symposium is sponsored by the Utah State University Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, the Utah State Board of Education, the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, and the Utah State University Literacy Clinic.

Associated with the Symposium, Utah State Board of Education, Literacy Clinic, and Utah State University