A reading specialist, also known as a reading teacher, is an educator who is professionally trained in teaching literacy skills. He or she works with students to assess their reading styles and offer instructions for improvement. Although their students can be adults, most reading specialists work in secondary school environments to assist children in developing fundamental reading comprehension skills.
Traditional teachers may not have the advanced knowledge that is typically required for effectively coaching students with reading difficulties. Reading specialists are trained to recognize students' reading strengths and weaknesses. The specialists then apply their knowledge of different learning styles to customize individual lesson plans to ensure students are understanding the meaning and context of what they read in addition to simply recognizing the letters and sounds.
Job duties can vary depending on the place of employment. A reading specialist who works in a school environment may have to meet with the parents of students to give suggestions for home activities to further help with reading skills. He or she can also advise other teachers on how to properly handle students with reading difficulties in their classrooms.
A reading specialist in a school setting may also act as a literacy advocate. He or she may organize campaigns on the importance of reading by setting up reading contests with prizes to make reading fun for students. Reading specialists can also work together with school librarians to pick out student reading materials as well as select information to distribute to parents and teachers about the importance of reading programs.
Adults who are illiterate or struggle with reading may turn to reading specialists. Since learning skills are different for children and adults, a reading specialist who is working with adults will typically have to come up with different teaching techniques. An adult learning to read may also only have a few hours a week to spend in a classroom environment, unlike a child who goes to school full-time, so a reading specialist has to tailor lessons to be effective in a shorter period of time. Reading specialists who work with adults often do so on a volunteer basis.
Since reading specialists mainly focus on teaching reading skills, they have a different type of background education than other types of teachers. To become a reading specialist, a person typically takes undergraduate courses in education, language arts, foundations of reading, literature, and corrective reading. He or she also generally needs to earn a reading specialist certification from the state or region he or she works in.