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David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English

2015 Recipient

Anne Haas Dyson
University of Illinois College of Education

for Rewriting the Basics: Literacy Learning in Children’s Cultures (Teachers College Press, July 2013)

In awarding Dyson's research study, the David H. Russell Award selection committee writes: 

"In Rewriting the Basics: Literacy Learning in Children’s Cultures Anne H. Dyson invites us into the social worlds of young children and classroom writing contexts where “writing basics” are mediated, negotiated, challenged, and re-imagined. She entered classrooms—into the lives of children and teachers—where no one “doubted their children’s capacity to learn, failed to instructionally attend to each and every child, or missed an opportunity to warmly welcome children’s relations into their rooms.”

An expert ethnographer and graceful storyteller, Dyson illuminates everyday classroom practices and young writers’ interactions with both complexity and clarity. As educational reforms return to reductive “back to basics” approaches and scripted curricula, particularly in schools serving students of color, Dyson provides a rich, accessible account of the possibilities beyond the basics.

She masterfully juxtaposes the rich social worlds in which children write with and for each other—with curricular expectations and standards that are oblivious to the richness of these worlds. These official curricular “basics” sound in this book like an off-key, discordant noise. This is a story of missed opportunity, to be sure, but also of the promise of literacy instruction that might embrace the play, sociability, and inventiveness of children.

She details the narrow ways scripted curricula and traditional “writing basics” closed off opportunities of play and imagination with young writers, while more expansive approaches could better connect with the rich resources in students’ cultural and social worlds. A beautiful read, Rewriting the Basics is yet another extraordinary contribution by Anne H. Dyson to educators and researchers in the NCTE community and beyond."

2015 Russell Award Selection Committee
Linda Rief, Chair
Rosa Jimenez
Thomas Newkirk

Award Information

The David H. Russell Award recipient is announced in November of each year and honored at the NCTE Annual Convention.

Established in 1963 as the Distinguished Research Award and renamed in 1966 to honor the Council’s late president, the David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English honors an outstanding work of scholarship or research in language, literature, rhetoric, or pedagogy and learning, published during the previous five years.

Any work or works of scholarship or research in language, literature, rhetoric, or pedagogy and learning published during the past five years (i.e., between January 2011 and December 2015) are eligible. Works nominated for the David H. Russell Award should be exemplary instances of the genre, address broad research questions, contain material that is accessibly reported, and reflect a project that stands the test of time. Normally, anthologies are not considered. Reports of doctoral studies, while not precluded from consideration for the Russell Award, are typically considered as part of NCTE's separate "Promising Researcher" program. Works nominated for the award must be available in the English language.

To nominate a study for consideration, please include:

  • Nomination materials:  your name, phone, email, author, title, publisher, date of publication, and one paragraph indicating your reasons for nominating the work.
  • Materials nominated:  four copies of the publication for distribution to the Selection Committee, or if that is not possible, give full bibliographic information so that the Selection Committee will encounter no difficulty in locating the publication you nominate.

Email nomination material to: 

OR send nomination materials to:
David H. Russell Award
National Council of Teachers of English
1111 W. Kenyon Road
Urbana, IL  61801-1096

Nominations of publications (and actual publications) to be considered should be postmarked no later than March 1.

NOTE:  Books sent without supporting documents will not be considered.

Past Russell Award Winners

2014  David Kirkland: A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Young Black Men 

2013  Peter Smagorinsky. Vygotsky and Literacy Research: A Methodological Framework

2012  Judith A. Langer: Envisioning Knowledge: Building Literacy in the Academic Literacies

2011  Neal Lerner: The Idea of a Writing Laboratory

2010  Marc Lamont Hill: Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life

2009  Gerald Campano: Immigrant Students and Literacy: Reading, Writing, and Remembering

2008  Leila Christenbury: Retracing the Journey: Teaching and Learning in an American High School

2007  Sharon Crowley: Toward a Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism

2006  Catherine Prendergast: Literacy and Racial Justice: The Politics of Learning after Brown v. Board of Education

2005  No award given this year

2004  Gerald Graff: Clueless in Academe

2003  Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm: Reading Don't Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men

2002  Anne J. Herrington and Marcia Curtis: Persons in Process: Four Stories of Writing and Personal Development in College

2001  Geneva Smitherman: Talkin That Talk: African American Language and Culture

2000  Thomas Newkirk: The Performance of Self in Student Writing

1999  Vivian Gussin Paley: The Girl with the Brown Crayon: How Children Use Stories to Shape Their Lives

1998  Arthur N. Applebee: Curriculum as Conversation: Transforming Traditions of Teaching and Learning

1997  George Hillocks, Jr.: Teaching Writing as Reflective Practice (1995) (A synthesis of theory and practice for the reflective teaching of writing)

1996  Brian Street: Social Literacies: Critical Approaches to Literacy Development, Ethnography, and Education (1995) (An exploration of multiple literacies in cross-cultural contexts)

1995  Victor Villanueva, Jr.: Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color (1994) (An account and a study of race, class, literacy, and literacy instruction)

1994  Anne Haas Dyson: Social Worlds of Children Learning to Write in an Urban Primary School (1993) (A study of the social lives and literacy learning of urban school children)

1993  Deborah Brandt: Literacy as Involvement: The Acts of Writers, Readers, and Texts (1990) (A redefinition of literacy and literacy development through a process perspective)

1992  James Moffett: Storm in the Mountains: A Case Study of Censorship, Conflict, and Consciousness (1998) (A case study of censorship, conflict and consciousness)

1991  John S. Mayher: Uncommon Sense: Theoretical Practice in Language Education (1990) (A synthesis of various perspectives of the use and power of language in classrooms)

1990  Nancie Atwell: In the Middle: Writing, Reading, and Learning with Adolescents (1989) (Classroom-based research into effective middle school language arts teaching)

1989  Mike Rose: Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America's Under-prepared (1989) (A study of under preparation in American education)

1988  Robert Scholes: Textual Power: Literary Theory and the Teaching of English (1985) (An analysis of literary criticism as it relates to the teaching of English)

1987  Jerome C. Harste, Carolyn Burke, and Virginia Woodward: Language Stories and Literacy Lessons (1984) (A study of preschool children's literacy learning)

1986  Frederic G. Cassidy: Dictionary of American Regional English (1985)(Development of the multi-volume Dictionary of American Regional English)

1985  Shirley Brice Heath: Ways with Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms (1983) (A study of language patterns in Appalachian towns)

1984  Frank Smith: Writing and the Writer (1982) (A synthesis of information on philosophy of language, modern reading and interpretation theory, and cognitive development)

1983  Margaret Donaldson: Children's Minds (1979) (New insights into the stages of children's intellectual development)

1982  Donald Graves: Balance the Basics: Let Them Write (1978) (Studies of writing development in children)

1981  Michael A.K. Halliday: Language as a Social Semiotic (1978) (Study of language development in its social settings)

1980  Louise Rosenblatt: The Reader, The Text, The Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work (1978) (Theoretical depiction of the response to literature)

1979 Marie M. Clay: Reading: The Patterning of Complex Behavior, What Did I write? And other titles (1973) (Studies of children's writing)

1978 Mina Shaughnessy: Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing (1977) (Error analysis in the writing of college students)

1977 James Britton: Language and Learning (1970) (Studies on the development of writing abilities)

1976 No award given this year

1975 Kenneth S. Goodman: (Studies in reading miscue analysis)

1974 Roger Brown: A First Language: The Early Stages (1973) (A study of early acquisition of language)

1973 Harold B. Allen: Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest (1973) (A study of dialect patterns in the upper Midwest)

1972 No award given this year

1971 Carol Chomsky: The Acquisition of Syntax in Children 5 to 10 (Studies on acquisition of syntax in children from 5 to 10)

1970 Albert H. Marckwardt (Extensive research in English linguistics, characterized by concern for implications and applications to the process of teaching)

1969 Raven I. McDavid (Research in Regional and social dialects)

1968 William Labov (A study of dialects and social stratification)

1967 Walter Loban (Twelve-year longitudinal study of children's language)

1966 Wayne C. Booth (A study of the nature of fiction)

1965 Ruth G. Strickland (Studies of children's oral language)

1964 Kellogg W. Hunt (Studies of the writing of children)


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