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Jim Cunningham to be inducted into Reading Hall of Fame

Jim Cunningham, professor emeritus of literacy studies, will be inducted into the International Reading Association’s Reading Hall of Fame at the IRA’s annual meeting

Jim Cunningham
Jim Cunningham

in May.

Although Cunningham retired from the School of Education in 2003 after a 28-year career, he has remained active in the reading research community. His research has focused on reading comprehension, diagnosis of reading problems and writing instruction.

Jill Fitzgerald, who worked with Cunningham at the School of Education, said Cunningham was deserving of the honor.
“His widespread promotion of a balanced approach to reading instruction has impacted thousands of children’s lives,” said Fitzgerald, who was inducted into the IRA Reading Hall of Fame last year. “He’s always been a thoughtful and careful researcher and has published in top-tier journals, including Reading Research Quarterly and Journal of Literacy Research.

“Jim was also an outstanding teacher educator, consistently earning very high ratings from students,” Fitzgerald added. “He also spent a lot of time in schools and was an energetic public school education consultant. His reading education textbooks have been praised as research-based, practical, thorough, and engaging.”

Cunningham has co-authored many books, including Reading and Writing in Elementary Classrooms: Strategies and Observations. In 1992, Cunningham was recognized as a “Heavy Hitter,” one of the most prolific authors in the publications of the National Reading Conference. He was elected as a Fellow of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy in 1986.

Cunningham has served on the Board of Directors of the National Reading Conference and has been active on several of its committees. He chaired a committee in 1999-2000 on Expanding the Influence of Research on Reading Education in the United States. He has been an active member of the IRA and was a charter member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading.

Retired Professor of Literacy Dixie Spiegel, who also worked closely with Cunningham during their careers at Carolina, said Cunningham exceled at more than research.

“What the IRA doesn’t know is what a fabulous teacher Jim was,” Spiegel said. “Students flocked to his classes, both graduate and undergraduate. It didn’t matter to Jim if he was teaching 12 students or 60, he always kept them mesmerized with a critical blend of practice and research.

“His students adored and respected him and through both his publications and teaching Jim Cunningham has changed the world of literacy education.”

Cunningham will be inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame on May 1, during the IRA’s convention in Chicago.