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Dr. Marinak Earns A.B. Herr Award

Barbara Marinak, Ph.D.The literacy field is not a glamorous one, so the average reader might not be familiar with the A.B. Herr Award, which is given out nearly every year by the Association of Literacy Educators and Research (ALER). But the accomplishments it recognizes – outstanding contributions to the field of reading – are as foundational to education as, well, learning your ABCs.

This year’s recipient is Mount St. Mary’s own Barbara Marinak, Ph.D., professor of education and chair of the education department. This is not the first time ALER has recognized Dr. Marinak; in 2005, her dissertation was given the J. Estill Alexander Future Leaders in Literacy Dissertation Award.  

Dr. Marinak has been a leader in her field for more than three decades, making significant contributions to literacy through her research, service, and teaching. She began her career in special education, working hearing impaired students but quickly realized that her training had not prepared her how to teach comprehensive literacy (reading, writing, viewing and representing). Thus began a lifelong passion. “I began taking graduate courses in reading my first year of teaching,” she said. “I became inspired.”

She worked with students in K-12 until 2005, when Dr. Marinak moved to higher education. At the Mount, she teaches both undergraduate and graduate students in literacy, research, and special education.

“Teaching is a favorite part of the job,” Dr. Marinak said. “Being with my students, in class or in the field, supporting and nurturing them.” Much of her research has involved developing instruments to assess intrinsic reading motivation, primarily in grades K-6, and using that information to design motivation interventions. Her students at the Mount employ many of these instruments in their own teaching.

“We examine my work in several courses, learning about instrument development as well as during the development of a case study whereby our teacher candidates assess the reading motivation of K-5 students,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see them using my work.”

“It is a high honor to be recognized by one's peers for contributions to the field, and Dr. Barb Marinak now joins a long list of giants in the field of literacy,” said Barbara Martin Palmer, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education and Human Services.

Dr. Marinak is quick to note that her “mentors for life,” as she calls her two most important colleagues, won the ALER award in years past. To be similarly honored, she said, “was very special to me.” It was, she said, further recognition of their trailblazing work in literacy motivation. The award was every bit as much about their foundational research as it was a recognition of my recent contributions ... I’m really pleased.”

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