The Role of Reading Specialist

  • Reading is the most fundamental of skills, one upon which all of learning, in fact most of life depends. It might be something we take for granted, which is why when a child struggles with reading, families and teachers take it seriously. MPCSD supports reading and literacy in the elementary schools with an exceptional team of Reading Specialists, including Susan Blanco, Jacqui Cebrian, Helga Dinning, Liliana Gómez, Jeanne McCann, and Leigh Wilson. These teachers work with individual students or small groups to make sure all students are reading and comprehending at grade level. They bring passion and expertise to their work, focusing on lifting students, growing passionate readers, and supporting teachers and administrators throughout the district.


    Recently a parent reached out to share his child’s reading success after working with a Reading Specialist, saying “After only about four months of classes, [my child] did not need any further special instruction and finished the year at grade level. We are very thankful that both the Reading Specialist and the school did not let our child down in reading!” Helping children read is empowering for the student and family, and offers such relief to concerned parents.


    Reading Specialists work in many ways. They share book recommendations, offer quiet reading space, visit classrooms, and encourage students to stretch their thinking through the stories they read. They use Reading Recovery, an intensive one on one reading intervention for first grade students. They are experts at matching a child with an interesting book, and dig deeply into comprehension strategies to accelerate reading growth. Reading Specialists also collaborate with their classroom teacher colleagues to help them work with all students on reading goals.


    The amazing Reading Specialists of MPCSD would like to share more about themselves and their jobs with you. Somehow, they all think they have the best job! Please click here to read the full article.


    Reading Specialist Susan Blanco with her daughter. I am Susan Blanco and I am one of the two literacy specialists at Encinal Elementary, having held this position from 2004 to the present. I am also the district’s Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. As a literacy specialist, I work both individually and in small groups to help children reach grade level benchmarks in reading and encourage the love of literacy. As a Teacher Leader, I work with other Reading Recovery teachers to help guide them in their deep understanding of reading and writing and helps them to be reflective about their practice. I also work with classroom teachers and do presentations that help them work with the children in their classes. This is the best job ever!


    Jeanne McCann in her classroom. Hello from Encinal School!  My name is Jeanne McCann and I have been a reading specialist for four years. Before that I taught second grade. I love being a reading specialist because I feel like my work can change children’s lives. Last year, I was trained in Reading Recovery by my colleague, Susan Blanco. Reading Recovery is an intensive one on one reading intervention for first grade students. This specialized, ongoing training has been the most impactful training of my 30-plus years as a teacher. I also hold certification in Spanish, and I love providing intervention in Spanish to some of our Immersion students. This year, my focus has been student engagement. I am influenced by my colleague across town, Jacqui Cebrian, who constantly keeps me current with the latest and greatest in children’s literature. I want to help students find the kinds of texts that interest them and keep them coming back for more!


    Leigh Wilson with her reading students. Greetings from Laurel! I’m Leigh Wilson, the Reading Specialist at our Upper Campus. I’ve been teaching for 22 years, the last five here in Menlo Park. Back in Michigan, I taught lower elementary, Reading Recovery, and reading interventions. My focus at Laurel is to help ALL our students find a love of reading. I strive to get to know our Squirrels’ passions and interests and then match them with really great books. Having students engaged and excited about reading is key! In my small groups we read a variety of genres and dig deep into comprehension strategies to accelerate reading growth. I’m always impressed with my students’ interpretations of what we’ve read. I’m pretty sure I have the best job around! 


    Liliana Gomez in her classroom. ¡Hola! I am Liliana Gómez but most of the students at Laurel Lower Campus call me Maestra Gómez. I have been working in bilingual education for 22 years and this is my second year as a bilingual reading specialist. I am a strong believer in Bilingual Education and my personal experience as an English Learner makes me a very sensitive educator toward my students’ needs, even more conscious about the most effective strategies to teach the aspects of language. Teaching reading is a constant process of creativity and self-reflection of how to deliver an effective instruction that makes all students feel successful, motivated and engaged. My favorite part of my job is to see a light of expression in my students’ faces when they realize they are able to read and comprehend texts!


    Reading Specialist Jacqui Cebrian. My name is Jacqui Cebrian and I have been a reading specialist for 19 years, 16 of which have been at Oak Knoll. On any given day, you can find me working in small groups with students needing extra support in reading, opening my room at recess for students who’d like a quiet reading space or a book recommendation. I regularly visit classrooms to share amazing picture books and stretch the thinking of both students and teachers about the lessons these books have to offer readers. I work with the community library as well to advocate for book access for all readers. I love working to connect kids and books throughout the district. I also think I have the best job ever!


    Helga Dinning in her classroom. More from Oak Knoll Elementary! My name is Helga Dinning and I have been an educator of 23 years, and a Reading Specialist for 19. I have had the privilege of working at Oak Knoll elementary school with my partner Jacqui Cebrian for the past 13 years and beyond, as a full time reading specialist and Reading Recovery teacher. I am so impressed by the commitment our school and district have taken to implement an intervention for our most developing first-grade readers. Mr. Ackerman, now the president of our board, invested in Reading Recovery and we have seen amazing shifts in our young readers.  Our district is equally invested in working with all students to become thriving readers. I am energized every day and embrace my work with my reading partner, Jacqui Cebrian, and my other Reading Specialist colleagues. We are a committed group focused on lifting students, growing passionate readers, and supporting teachers and administrators through our expertise. Menlo Park City School District is a district committed to passionate readers and matching intervention with students' needs.