Faculty Spotlight: Lesley Morrow

January 31, 2020

Dr. Lesley M. Morrow is a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Literacy Development at the Graduate School of Education. Her book Literacy Development in the Early Years: Helping Children Read and Write was recently published in its 9th edition. This is the 30th anniversary of this publication. The first edition of the book was published in 1989 by Prentice Hall. After several mergers, the book is now published by Pearson.   

Dr. Morrow created an early literacy course in 1985 at the Graduate School of Education for a new program in teacher education.  She said, “There were no texts about early literacy development when I created the course.”  She started the first edition using her electric typewriter. She realized it was time for a computer with this large project. The book is research based, and includes results of studies she carried out that proved to be evidenced based best practice in this country. Many of the photographs in the book were pictures she took in schools where she was carrying out her studies. One of Dr. Morrow’s favorite editions was the 20th anniversary sixth edition as it included pictures of her grandchildren throughout the book. Lesley describes her book “as a text that provides a language arts perspective for literacy development.” This means that the teaching of reading involves instruction of all of the language arts, such as reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing.

Many of Dr. Morrow’s graduate students have helped with different editions, and there has always been a section to acknowledge their work. In this ninth edition there are photos of those Rutgers students that contributed.

Thirty percent of this early literacy text was changed in the ninth edition. There are now 14 chapters and all other editions had 10. This allowed Lesley to expand upon emergent literacy strategies. Another feature in the book is My Education Lab. This is a website for readers to find additional classroom resources. This ninth edition contains a video interactive aspect where students have the option to watch videos pertaining to the chapter as they read. Dr. Morrow explains, “If the chapter is about guided reading to provide differentiation of instruction the video embedded into the book is a teacher doing a guided reading lesson.” In addition to videos, the reader can post notes on pages, and search for specific information. There is an Instructor’s Guide for the book with quizzes, power points for each topic, and activities for instructors at different colleges and universities who adopt the text to use in their teaching. The book has been adopted in over 100 colleges and universities.

The 9th edition puts an emphasis on “creating a community of learners, and embraces a positive mindset for learning.” There is an emphasis on engaging children in literacy development by making instruction relevant and motivating. Using children’s literature is emphasized to deal with social justice and equity issues. Children’s literature provides multicultural books and books with multiple topics so there always is one book to interest every youngster. Children’s literature will also deal with sensitive topics that lead to rich discussions.  There is a strong focus on attending to individual needs by differentiating instruction. Dr. Morrow refers to this edition as “a very user-friendly text for the university student and instructor.” The 500 page text is used throughout the world in teacher education programs. It is translated into Danish, Greek, Chinese, and Korean. 

Dr. Morrow has contributed a great deal in the field of literacy.  She has published 35 books and well over 300 articles. She remarked, “It is so gratifying to see the research-based activities that were developed in my studies used throughout the country.”

Lesley created and directs the Center for Literacy Development. Her center has five professional development conferences a year. Topics presented deal with current issues concerning literacy research and instruction. The center has coaches in more than 50 school districts in NJ who provide on-site professional development. Dr. Morrow has created the Rutgers Reading Club which is an after-school club that provides instruction for struggling readers and consistently improves children’s literacy achievement.

 Dr. Morrow hopes to publish a 10th edition of her book. Pearson has asked her to take on a second author to ensure the legacy of the publication. Dr. Morrow has received multiple awards for her work over the years. Those she is most proud of are, the International Literacy Association award for outstanding research that contributed knowledge to the field of literacy and a similar award from the Literacy Research Association. Through her research, publications, and center activities she is following the GSE’s mission of Advancing Excellence and Equity in Education. With her books, research articles, etc. she is educating future generations of teachers, and reading specialists.

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