READ Doctoral Candidate selected as Early Literacy Fellow in Missouri

by Angelita Faller

A UA Little Rock doctoral student has been selected as part of an inaugural cohort of educators who will work to improve literacy education and instruction in Missouri.

Adria Waters, who is earning a Ph.D. in Reading from the School of Education and is an assistant professor of education at Lincoln University, is one of eight higher education professors in Missouri who have been selected to participate in the Early Literacy Fellow program.

The Early Literacy Fellow program is part of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Missouri Read, Lead, Exceed initiative, a more than $35 million plan to support student literacy by improving up to 15,000 kindergarten through third-grade teachers’ ability to teach language, reading, and spelling skills.

“I was extremely excited about the opportunity,” Waters said. “It’s part of a statewide initiative to improve literacy in the state of Missouri. I taught for 14 years in a public school. Literacy has always been near and dear to my heart. To be able to affect literacy education in this way is really exciting.”

Waters has a background as a kindergarten and second-grade teacher and a reading recovery and reading interventionist, where she helped low-income students learn to improve their reading, writing, and literacy skills.

The program began in the spring and will end in August 2024. During the first year with the fellowship, Waters will complete the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling training course, which equips teachers with evidence-based skills to improve language and literacy courses.

As a fellow, Waters and her cohort will create recommendations for an increased alignment between literacy research and education preparation for literacy instruction and the current practices that are in PreK-12 schools in Missouri with a focus on early literacy.

At UA Little Rock, Waters is researching elementary teachers’ knowledge of vocabulary development and their teaching practices for low-income students for her dissertation. She is planning to graduate in December.

“I’ve always wanted to be a professor, but I wanted to be in the public-school realm before I became a professor,” Waters said. “I always felt that it was refreshing to learn from professors who were in the field.”