Reading and writing are two of the most essential skills. Nobody wants to be left behind, on the fringe of society, just because they didn’t learn to read at school. But many children struggle with reading. And they do not necessarily have to suffer from severe mental disability. Sometimes it’s “only” ADHD, or a mental block they carry and struggle to overcome.

Working as a reading specialist, you will help them gain the essential skill. Starting with identifying children at risk, continuing with designing and implementing proper reading academic interventions, and ending with evaluating the progress of each child, you will repeat the cycle all over again, each school year. Let’s have a look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting and important job.

 

Can you please tell us something about yourself, your working experience?

In an ideal case you should tell them a short story of your life. It starts with your education, degree you earned in reading and literacy, or reading education, or in other relevant field. The story continuous with your teaching career, and classroom experience.

During the years you spent teaching you realized the importance of reading education, and learned the ins and outs of working with children individually or in small groups. You discovered your strengths and matched them with the next job you want to have–Reading Specialist.

The story culminates at this point, in this interview. Finally, after everything you’ve done and learned, you are ready to get the job and follow your teaching mission. What the future will bring–perhaps a career of a principal, you do not know yet. But you know where you are at the moment, and what you want to do.

Introducing yourself in an interview, you can also add a few details from your personal life. People in the hiring committee are not professional interviewers. They are school administrators, teachers, counselors. More than anything else they are looking for a good colleague. Tell them something from your personal life, open up a bit, and make a good connection right at the start of your interview.

Sample answer:

I’ve been teaching at Elementary school for nine years, after getting my degree from XYZ University. During these years I understood that more than Physics, Biology, or Math, it is an ability to read and write, and to work with information, that decides about the opportunities the child will have in life. I’ve worked with small groups of children who struggled to read, and now I’d like to do this full time, since I realized I have the passion and talent for this type of work. In my life outside of work I am an avid reader and enjoy swimming a few times every week, to keep myself in a good shape, and to relax my mind a bit.

 

How do you plan to identify students at risk at out school?

You can suggest different ways of identifying students who may struggle with learning to read. Short screening for Word Identification Fluency (WIF), Phonological Awareness, and Letter Knowledge of all first grade students is definitely a great step to separate students into two groups–one consists of students who need intervention, the second of students who don’t need it.

You can add that after initial screening of all students you will do individual screening of students who fell into the first group (need intervention), and may combine it with talking to their parents, trying to understand the family background, and identify any factors that may restrain them in their education. You can also suggest progressive screening or repetitive testing, just to ensure you avoid false positives and won’t left any student behind.

Sample answer:

Short screening for WIF, phonological awareness and letter knowledge of all first grade students should help us identify children at risk. But I want to continue and do the test repeatedly, to make sure no children is left behind, and at the same time we avoid false positives.

How do you plan to work with students, and with teachers, as a reading specialist?

The approach differs at various educational institutions, and it also depends on the number of students who may need your help. Of course it’s easier to work with 10 students than 50, and in some cases you won’t have another option than working more with teachers and their assistants, instructing them on the way they should work with each particular child.

However, as a reading specialist, you should always prefer direct intervention in the classroom (or after school), working with individual students. You have the education and experience, and you do not want to be a mere manager. Because you do not want to lose the contact with the students and the core of your job.

Ensure the interviewers that as long as the number of students who need your help allows it, you want to work directly withe the students. But you also believe to have the skill to instruct the teachers and their assistants to do proper intervention in the classes.

Sample answer:

As long as the number of students in need allows it, I want to work directly with the students. However, I understand this is a big school and in some cases I will have to instruct the teachers and their assistants, so they can help the children at risk, and make sure they stay on track with their reading lessons. I do not want to sound overconfident but I believe I can handle both–working directly in the classes, and instructing teachers and their assistants.

 

What role does reporting and monitoring play in your job?

Give it the highest importance and explain your way of reporting on the progress of each child. The way I found effective is actually simple. Based on the initial screening results, you identify the problems and set realistic goals for each child, according to their limitations and disabilities.

Then, doing regular screening, you’ll monitor on the progress of each child, and write a short report. This helps you to stay on the top of things and always know where each child stands in their reading education, and what steps you should take next.

What’s more, once you have such reports, you can easily share them with other professionals (special ed. teacher, counselor) who also work with the children, or perhaps also with your successor in the job, once they promote you to the position of AP or Principal…

Sample answer:

In my opinion it is very important. First of all, you never know what may happen. Once you leave the school, or get promoted, or progress to another role in the team, you want your successor to have some documentation for each child. They should be able to go on with the good work you’ve done to that point, with each individual child. Secondly, unless we set goals and monitor the progress of the children regularly, we cannot really evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching methods, and whether it actually delivers the desired results. All in all, reporting plays a big role in this job and you can be sure I won’t take it lightly.

 

What role does technology play in your work?

This is a tricky question, because you should not rely solely on technology while teaching reading. At the same time, however, technology is here to stay, and we cannot ignore it. If you know about some software programs, or mobile apps, that help children with their reading skills (I am sure there are some), you can definitely suggest applying them while working with your students. At the end of the day it is good to have some variety, and children typically love technology.

Designers of educational applications and games for children almost always aim for interaction and engagement, and most children will enjoy working with the app or playing the educational game.

Sample answer:

While we cannot rely on technology to do the job for us, we also cannot live in the 20th century anymore. Children love technology and getting their attention with traditional teaching is getting ever harder. Hence I hope to employ educational games and videos in my lessons. Gamification is a strong motivation for children to progress, from one level to another (in the game), and as long as it motivates them to do the exercises and pay attention, I see only benefits in using technology in my work. On the other hand, children should not spend the entire day looking at the screen of their tablet or smartphone. Why it is wise using technology in our job, we should not dash the books and printed materials for good…

 

What are your expectations on school administrators, teachers, and other colleagues?

I’d say you have two options for a good answer. First one is saying that you expect a lot from one person only–from yourself. You want to do as good job as possible, and will try to be attentive to the needs of your colleagues, doing your best build good relationship with them.

But you do not have any expectations when it comes to their job, and do not plan to think about it much. At the end of the day it’s not your responsibility to evaluate the work of your colleagues. Someone else should do it.

Second option consists in focusing on cooperation. Technically you’ll need help of other staff members. At least they should allow you to move forward with your interventions, they should not block you in the classes. Feeling a bit of support also helps.

In this case, you can say that you hope for an open communication, constructive feedback, and that they will allow you to do your job in the classes.

Sample answer:

To be honest, I do not have any expectations on them. Look, I am not here to judge the effectiveness and skill of my new colleagues. I am here to make sure all students learn to read with understanding. And that’s exactly what I want to focus on, day in day out. Of course, I hope to have good relationship with my colleagues, and perhaps we can support and motivate each other. But I can get along with pretty much everyone, and don’t expect this or that from my new colleagues really.

 

Other questions you may face in your reading specialist job interview

  • How do you plan to include parents in your work?
  • What do you consider the most challenging aspect of this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time? Do you have an ambition to progress to a role of an administrator?
  • What do you know about our school (institution), and why do you want to work as a reading specialist here, and not somewhere else.
  • What does quality mean to you?
  • Describe a time when you demonstrated your leadership skills.
  • Do you want to add something, or do you have any questions?

* You can download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

interview questions for reading specialist, PDF

Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a Reading Specialist belongs to interviews with average difficulty. More often than not, you’ll be the only applicant for the job (this is a specialty field and more children than ever struggle to learn to read, hence reading specialists are in high demand). It makes your situation easier.

On the other hand, you will typically interview in front of a small panel, with each member having their own expectations and questions. In order to succeed, you will have to demonstrate your readiness for the job, theoretical knowledge of the field, and also right attitude to both education and students.

Try to prepare a short answer to each question from this article, and do not forget to do a good research about your future place of work. I wish you good luck in your next interview!

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Glen Hughins
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