Dr. Kymyona Burk and Florida Center for Reading Research to receive awards at the 6th Annual Conference of The Reading League

October 11, 2022

SYRACUSE, NY – The Reading League announced recipients for their prestigious Benita A. Blachman and Meaningful Impact In Education Awards. They will be presented at the 6th Annual Conference of The Reading League in Syracuse, NY. 

Benita A. Blachman Award for Advancing Evidence Into Practice 

Kymyona Burk

The Benita A. Blachman Award for Advancing Evidence Into Practice was developed in honor of Dr. Benita Blachman, Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University. Beginning her career as a special education teacher and reading specialist, Dr. Blachman was dedicated to studying the science of reading, including the educational and neurophysiological impact of evidence-based interventions. Her research focused on factors that predict reading achievement and on early intervention to prevent reading failure. Her work was widely cited in the National Reading Panel Report (2000) that helped to establish an evidence-based model for early reading intervention. 

As a professor in the School of Education at Syracuse University for 35 years, Dr. Blachman influenced the next generation of educators through her research and frequently recruited graduate and post-graduate students to serve in roles necessary for executing her studies. Many founding members of The Reading League had the privilege to study under and work alongside her. It is no small coincidence that they remained in touch and ultimately joined together. Where the founding members were once striving to make a difference in their respective work environments, reuniting to advance the knowledge and passion gained from Benita’s tutelage was the inspiration for The Reading League. 

This year, the award goes to Dr. Kymyona Burk

Dr. Kymyona Burk is the Senior Policy Fellow for Early Literacy at the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). In this role, Dr. Burk supports states pursuing a comprehensive approach to K-3 reading policy by assisting state leaders in building new or improving existing K-3 reading policies, with a heavy focus on supporting successful policy implementation. For ExcelinEd, she directly supports 23 states and Washington D.C. in what is called the Early Literacy Network, which includes state education agency literacy leaders. Since beginning her national work with ExcelinEd in 2020, Dr. Burk has worked with Advocacy Directors and policymakers to pass or strengthen early literacy legislation in 14 states.

Dr. Burk most recently served as the Executive Director for the Office of Teaching and Learning in the Jackson Public School District (JPSD) where she provided the leadership and vision for all aspects of the JPSD’s instructional programs including curriculum, instruction, and professional learning. She is also the former K-12 State Literacy Director for the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), leading the state-level implementation of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act (2013), which aims to ensure that all students are proficient readers by third grade. Under her state literacy leadership from 2013-2019, MS’s 4th graders increased 10 scale score points in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), improved to 29th in the national rankings, tied the national average for the first time, and was the only state to make significant gains in 4th grade reading.

Dr. Burk has served as a member of the Mississippi Reading Panel, Advisory Board Member to the Mississippi Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, member of the Higher Education Literacy Council, and a member of the Mississippi Governor’s Task Force for Teacher Preparation in Early Literacy Instruction. She also served as a Board Member of The Reading League.

Dr. Burk’s experience includes teaching, training, and coaching in the areas of reading, writing, and literacy. She has served as a school-based literacy coach, district Consortium on Reading Excellence (C.O.R.E.) Literacy Trainer, and teacher of reading and English on elementary, secondary, and undergraduate levels.

She received a Doctorate in Early Childhood Education, Specialist in Secondary Education/English, Master of Science in Educational Leadership, Master of Arts in Teaching English, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Jackson State University.

Meaningful Impact in Education Award

Florida Center for Reading

This award is presented annually to an organization whose contributions have made a significant impact, nationally or globally, in the field of reading education. Awardees have a proven track record of dedication to the science of reading and fully align with the mission of The Reading League. This award was first presented in 2021.

This year’s winner is the Florida Center for Reading Research

The Florida Center for Reading Research is a multidisciplinary research center at Florida State University that was established in 2002 by the Governor’s office and Legislature. Currently, FCRR is home to ten tenured and tenure-track faculty members holding joint appointments with the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Education, and College of Social Work. In addition, FCRR has affiliate faculty in the College of Social Work, School of Teacher Education, and School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

FCRR contributes to the quality, accessibility, use, and relevance of reading and reading-related research by leveraging our talent, resources, and partnerships to:

  • Conduct basic and applied interdisciplinary research on all aspects of reading and reading-related skills to benefit learners;
  • Apply rigorous and innovative approaches that are responsive to the pressing problems of practice, policy, and research;
  • Develop innovative multimedia resources to translate and disseminate results of high-quality research relevant to a diverse group of stakeholders;
  • Create and sustain meaningful, mutually supportive, and lasting cross-sector partnerships with diverse organizations to solve high-leverage problems locally, nationally, and internationally;
  • Engage in leadership and entrepreneurial activities to empower researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to discover solutions, transform practices, and make improvements continuously; and
  • Foster a diverse intellectual community of researchers and practitioners to advance the science of reading and develop the next generation of scholars and leaders.

See all award recipients.

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