Faculty News

Leigh Hall named finalist for Early Career Award

Leigh Hall, assistant professor of literacy studies, has been named a finalist for the 2009 Early Career Award presented by the National Reading Conference. The award recognizes the work of outstanding young faculty members who are in the early part of their careers.

In notifying Hall, the selection committee chair wrote, “The committee’s collective assessment of both the quality and quantity of your contributions to the field is that you are already a strong leader in the field with an exceptionally bright future ahead of you.”

Hall’s research focuses on how middle-grades students’ beliefs about their abilities as readers influence their participation and success in their classes. “Her research findings turn prior notions about reasons for middle-grades students’ reading difficulties upside down,” said colleague and Senior Associate Dean Jill Fitzgerald, who provided a letter of support for her award nomination. “Her conclusions challenge long-held beliefs that struggling readers lack motivation and/or cognitive understandings about reading strategies or their application.”

Hall’s dissertation, titled “It’s Not Just the Text: Transactions Between Content Area Teachers and Struggling Readers,” received the 2006 International Reading Association Dissertation Award. In addition, Hall was a 2002-2004 Spencer Research Training Grant Fellow, a semifinalist for the 2004 Spencer Dissertation Fellowship and a semifinalist for a 2008 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship.

In the four years since she completed her dissertation, Hall has published 14 articles, been invited to write three book chapters and been invited to write a book on reading practices that empower struggling readers. She has received a local seed grant and submitted large grant proposals to public and private funding sources.

“Leigh’s collective findings have significant potential to impact the face of middle grades content area instruction in which reading is involved,” Fitzgerald noted. “Her conclusions can influence how teachers think about their instruction in content areas with struggling readers, her methodological repertoire is wide, she works deeply from theory in ways that enrich the meanings of her work, and she is a bold young researcher who knows how to bring ideas to fruition.”

Fitzgerald summarized, “Leigh’s work is already impacting the literacy field, and she is receiving significant national attention as a literacy researcher. She is driven from within to accomplish the research that she believes will make a difference in teachers’ and children’s lives.”  

Although Hall is a finalist who will not receive the award this year, the selection committee chair encouraged her to reapply next year.