Annual Conference Information

8th Annual SUNY Cortland Literacy Department Conference

Reading & Writing for Social Justice: Challenging Notions of Literacy in Challenging Times

The SUNY Cortland Literacy Department is pleased to announce that we will be holding our 8th annual conference virtually. Details about the conference are below.

Submit your proposal to the 2024 SUNY Cortland Literacy Department Conference here! Proposal submissions are due February 1, 2024.

Conference Details

  • Date: Saturday, April 6, 2024 
  • Time: 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. (EST) 
  • Platform: Zoom 
  • Proposal Submission: (opens November 7, 2023; due February 1, 2024) 
  • Conference Registration: (opens January 1, 2024; due March 22, 2024)

    Conference Schedule

      • 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Keynote Address: Dr. Kelly Cartwright 
      • 10:10 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Breakout Sessions 1  
      • 11:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions 2  
      • 12:10 pm – 1:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions 3  
      • 1:00 pm – 2:00 p.m. Keynote Address: Felicia Rose Chavez 
      • 2:00 p.m. Raffle Drawings immediately following keynote address 
      •  Raffle Drawings immediately following keynote address

    All session links will be included on the conference program and will be sent out prior to the morning of the event. 

    Contact Keith Newvine ( for more information. Conference registration opens on January 1, 2024.

    Submit your proposal to the 2024 SUNY Cortland Literacy Department Conference here! Proposal submissions are due February 1, 2024.

    Conference Theme

    Over the past 70+ years, the issue of reading achievement in American schools has been a major political touchstone. From the 1956 treatise Why Johnny Can't Read—And What You Can Do About It (Flesch, 1956) to the April 26, 1983 report A Nation at Risk, narratives about reading achievement and reading outcomes have been steeped in discourses that raise national alarm about purported educational crises.  

    In Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal, abolitionist educator Dr. Bettina Love explains how the A Nation at Risk report was “comprised of cherry-picked data to villainize America’s public schools” (2023, p. 54). Indeed, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a non-partisan government entity that provides group-level data on U.S. student assessment, reported at the time that there was “very little change over the past two decades” (2023, p. 53) regarding educational outcomes, despite public alarm. 

    The history of alarmist discourses around reading education may contextualize the contemporary alarm over reading instruction in American schools. During a “Science of Reading Forum” hosted by the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, NY on September 19, 2023, five speakers presented about the “urgency” of reform within the literacy community. In summary, the panel of five repeated, in one form or another, the following:  

    • Practicing teachers, through no fault of their own, do not know how to teach reading correctly. This statement was based on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress for fourth-grade students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022). 
    • Teacher educators at many colleges and universities throughout the country, especially in New York State, do not teach pre-service teachers how to teach reading correctly. This statement was based on “data” from the National Council on Teacher Quality (Ellis et al., 2023). 

      Indeed, one must look no further than the New York Times or American Public Media’s Sold a Story podcast for how this conversation is happening on a national level. The September 27, 2023 online event titled “The State of Early Literacy in New York” with the registration link serves as an example of what some would call a “manufactured crisis” that requires educational reform in New York State.  

      In fact, one can’t help but see and feel the characteristics of white supremacy culture within these movements, including but not limited to: perfectionism, a sense of urgency, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, paternalism, power-hoarding, and either/or thinking (Jones & Okun, 2001). Within the confines of this institutionalized and mechanized education reform movement, the humanity of youth and educators is decentered, pushed to the periphery, disregarded, or erased. From book bans and legislative efforts to criminalize pedagogy meant to educate, liberate, and celebrate, challenging times are ever-present. The need to challenge notions of literacy that essentializes and marginalizes is upon us yet again (Love, 2023). It is this confluence of change and challenge that this conference attempts to address.  

      For the 8th Annual SUNY Cortland Literacy Department Conference, we will accept proposals in the form of a panel, workshop, presentation, or discussion group (described in greater detail below). Our sessions, led by faculty, graduate students, and K-12 teachers, will strive to answer the following questions: 

      • In what ways does your teaching work to prepare youth for successful forms of comprehending and composing in the 21st century?
      • How do you design educational spaces to provide foundational skills and strategies while centering joy, love, healing, redemption, and social justice? 
      • What archeology of the self (Sealey-Ruiz, 2021) and self-identity work do you engage in or ask your students to engage in with you to help create more socially inclusive spaces of learning? 
      • What policies and practices have you developed or enacted to provide youth with opportunities to be/become engaged citizens and agents of change? 

      Submit your proposal to the 2024 SUNY Cortland Literacy Department Conference here! Proposal submissions are due February 1, 2024.

        Keynote Speakers

        Dr. Kelly Cartwright (opening keynote) is a Psychology, Neuroscience, and Teacher Preparation professor at Christopher Newport University. She directs the Reading, Executive function, And Development Lab (READLab) and is a Research Scholar for the Center for Education Research and Policy. Dr. Cartwright studies the neurocognitive and affective factors that underlie reading processes and difficulties from preschool through adulthood. Her groundbreaking book, Executive Skills and Reading Comprehension: A Guide for Educators, now in its second edition, is the first comprehensive text at this intersection. She regularly works with educators throughout the U.S. to better understand and improve reading, and these experiences inform her research. 

        Felicia Rose Chavez (closing keynote) is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is the author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom and co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT with Willie Perdomo and Jose Olivarez. Felicia’s teaching career began in Chicago, where she served as Program Director to Young Chicago Authors and founded GirlSpeak, a feminist webzine for high school students. She went on to teach writing at the University of New Mexico, where she was recognized as the Most Innovative Instructor of the Year. At the University of Iowa, she was also recognized as the Outstanding Instructor of the Year. Additionally, she received the Theodore Roosevelt Collins Outstanding Faculty Award from Colorado College. Her creative scholarship earned her a Ronald E. McNair Fellowship, a University of Iowa Graduate Dean’s Fellowship, a Riley Scholar Fellowship, and a Hadley Creatives Fellowship. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, she now lives in Seattle, Washington.

        Types of Sessions

        • Panel: Presenters knowledgeable about a common topic gather for discussion, often moderated by a question-answer format. Panels will be held for 50 minutes. 
        • Workshop: Presenters provide a hands-on experience or demonstration relating to teaching and learning. Audience members may be encouraged to bring their own ideas and materials to “work on” during the workshop. Workshops will be held for 50 minutes. 
        • Discussion Group: Presenters prepare a session interacting with audience members for discussion, self-reflection, and exploration of topics. Discussion groups will be held for 50 minutes. 
        • Presentation: Presenters share their research and/or experience answering questions and/or solving problems with little audience participation. Presentations will be held for 20 minutes and grouped in pairs.

        Submit your proposal to the 2024 SUNY Cortland Literacy Department Conference here! Proposal submissions are due February 1, 2024.

            Positionality Statement

            The SUNY Cortland Literacy Department recognizes that we are not experts in anti-bias, anti-racist work, and we are continuously reflecting and seeking knowledge about power, privilege, and oppression ourselves. We acknowledge the following about our collective: 

            • We are uninvited guests living, learning, and teaching on the land of the Haudenosaunee people. 
            • Our collective racial makeup is predominantly white, and many of us hold unearned white privilege. 
            • Our department faculty is made up predominantly of white women in a field where white women represent roughly 80% of educators in the U.S., even though our students are increasingly racially diverse. 

              As a literacy education department, we must address and work to dismantle matters of oppression relating to literacy practices in school spaces. Our goal with this conference is to hold space for learning, reflection, and planning for action with respect to anti-bias, anti-racist literacy teaching. In doing so, we strive to centralize the scholarship and experiences of scholars and educators from the historically marginalized group who established and remain deeply engrained in this work.  

              We are confident that attendees and speakers have an enormous amount to teach us when grappling with these specific topics. We welcome these moments as they help to re-distribute the unearned power based on our collective positionalities and aid in continuing to disrupt our biases.   


              Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC) 
              The SUNY Cortland Literacy Department 
              The SUNY Cortland College of Education Dean’s Office 


              Ellis, C., Holston, S., Drake, G., Putman, H., Swisher, A., & Peske, H. (2023). Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. 

              Jones, K., & Okun, T. (2001). Dismantling racism: A workbook for social change groups. Change Work 

              Love, B. (2023). Punished for dreading: How school reform harms Black children and how we heal. St. Martin’s Press. 

              Sealey-Ruiz, Y. (2021, April). Racial literacy. A policy research brief. National Council of Teachers of English. 

              National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): 2022 Reading Assessment. U.S. Department of Education.