Initiatives & Partnerships


Partner With Us

If your district or agency is interested in exploring ways that the Reading and Language Development Program can partner with you in order to improve teacher knowledge and skill in the area of reading, or your Foundation is interested in partnering with us on an initiative, please contact Dr. Jule McCombes-Tolis, Director, at

The Reading and Language Development Program is interested in designing innovative partnerships with districts and agencies that are dedicated to ensuring that educators possess the requisite knowledge and skills to positively impact reading achievement.

To date, mutually beneficial partnerships have been established with numerous districts for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Ansonia Public Schools
  • Bridgeport Public Schools
  • Danbury Public Schools
  • East Haven Public Schools
  • Naugatuck Public Schools
  • Norwalk Public Schools
  • Stamford Public Schools
  • Waterbury Public Schools
  • West Haven Public Schools


Spotlight Partnership: Literacy How

Literacy How is an organization committed to translating “gold standard” literacy research into practice at all levels, with a particular emphasis on Pre-Kindergarten through third grade.

Founded in 2009 by Dr. Margie Gillis, Literacy How continues the work of Early Reading Success, Mastering Reading Instruction, and the Haskins Literacy Initiative, begun at Haskins Laboratories in 2000. At the heart of all that Literacy How does is a deep commitment to children and educators, and the belief that teachers, not programs or products, teach children to read, write, and spell.

Dr. Gillis and her team of literacy Mentors are dedicated to providing teachers and administrators with comprehensive, substantive, research-based professional development in all areas of literacy instruction, and to providing school-based teams with literacy mentoring, modeling, and coaching supports.


Literacy How Team


The Origin of the Anne E. Fowler Fellowship Program

Margie Gillis, EdD., president and founder of Literacy How

Dr. Anne E. Fowler, a renowned reading researcher at Haskins Laboratories, was a mentor to Dr. Gillis and worked with her to ensure that the research that she and her colleagues conducted would be applied by teachers in their classrooms. Dr. Fowler dreamed of a teacher training program in Connecticut and after her untimely passing, Dr. Gillis was determined to realize that dream on Dr. Fowler’s behalf.

The Reading and Language Development Program is guided by two core principles – accountability and transparency. We are accountable to our funders and other supporters who entrust us to do what’s best for Connecticut’s children. With one of the largest achievement gaps in the country, this formative program is dedicated to studying how to ensure that teachers are effective in their use of evidence-based practices.

As part of the research agenda, Anne E. Fowler Fellowship graduates’ student data will be collected and analyzed for three years to ensure that the program results in desired outcomes – that is, students’ improved reading proficiency. As a research affiliate at Fairfield University, Dr. Gillis collaborates with the director and research evaluator to study and use the data to inform changes to the delivery model.




Literacy How’s Partnership Role

As a Fellowship partner, Literacy How is instrumental in supporting the design and implementation of Fellows’ professional leave experiences, and in providing Fellows with supplemental training through their Professional Development Series

This series, delivered in the first year of the Fellowship, covers all components of comprehensive literacy and is designed to dovetail with Fellows’ coursework. All proceeds from Literacy How, Inc. fund the Anne E. Fowler Foundation, which provides scholarships for the Anne E. Fowler Literacy Fellows Program.

The Professional Development with Literacy How provided hands on experiences to enhance my approach when working with students. This course was able to put the terms phonological, phonemic awareness, semantics, and syntax into real form, not just words and definitions on paper. It was a phenomenal opportunity.

Tracy Piorkowski
3rd Grade Teacher at Columbus School

During the second year of their studies, Anne E. Fowler Fellows will participate in a negotiated leave of absence from their teaching position in order to practice applying acquired knowledge and skills in a structured, supervised, and supported context.

These three distinct and unique practicum experiences are intentionally sequenced and correspond to Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 contexts. Fellows have an opportunity to deepen their understanding of comprehensive literacy instruction as they apply their knowledge in increasingly intensive settings – that is, the general education classroom, focused reading intervention and supplemental reading support, and intensive instruction for students with identified reading difficulties/disabilities.

Through their work with Connecticut’s early literacy initiative, Literacy How identifies Master Teachers and model schools that are successfully implementing a comprehensive response to intervention model (RtI) in reading. While on leave from their teaching appointments, Fellows are assigned to a Master Teacher’s classroom order to practice, with the support of both the Master Teacher and a Literacy How Mentor, designing, delivering and evaluating whole and small group reading instruction.

Literacy How Mentors, reading experts who have knowledge and experience in comprehensive literacy, support Fellows in their efforts to evaluate and report student assessment data; and, to organize, plan, and deliver reading instruction in whole and small group contexts. Mentors utilize a cognitive coaching cycle that includes ample opportunity for reflection and discussion.

Spotlight Partnership: Norwalk Dyslexia Intervention Clinic

Within the community Dr. McCombes-Tolis, director of the Reading and Language Development program, continues to collaborate with local schools on many levels to positively impact reading achievement. She recently worked with Norwalk Public Schools’ Superintendent Steven Adamowski to develop and secure funding for a summer dyslexia intervention clinic.

Together they secured an $80,000 grant from the Noble Charitable Trust to engage the literacy program Literacy How in creating a summer dyslexia intervention clinic at Brookside Elementary School. The first cohort of six Norwalk teachers will receive training needed to earn certifications with the IDA as dyslexia practitioners, and in the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach to reading which is widely used for students with dyslexia. These teachers will serve 12 students in the summer and will continue to work with them over the course of the next school year. Five Norwalk school psychologists will also receive training by Fairfield University in how to diagnose dyslexia.

Search Results