Lane is the founder and director of the UF Literacy Institute (UFLI), a center dedicated to improving literacy outcomes for children. UFLI began in 1998 as a tutoring model for struggling beginning readers. At that time it was the UF Literacy Initiative, but Lane had big plans for UFLI. Now, more than 20 years later, she has built it into a well-known center with a scope that encompasses a variety of literacy projects.
Lane’s scholarship examines literacy from two angles – reader development and teacher development. She develops and studies early literacy instruction methods to prevent or address children’s reading difficulties and approaches to teacher education and professional development.
“When it comes to education, literacy is at the core of everything,” Lane said. “If you can’t read and write effectively, you’re not going to be able to do much effectively in school.
“It has an impact on your performance in every other subject, it has an effect on whether or not you’re going to graduate from high school, whether you are going to be able to go to college and be successful,” she continued. “So, it’s really the area of education that has the largest impact on somebody’s life.”
Leading UFLI, Lane is involved in a range of projects designed to identify methods for preparing and improving literacy practice of new and experienced educators.
“We do teacher development, we do reader development and where those two things overlap is really where UFLI lives,” she said.
Among Lane’s top priorities are two pressing projects that she will center her professorship around – the ongoing James Patterson Literacy Challenge (JPLC) and developing UFLI Foundations, a model for explicit and systematic phonics instruction.
The work of JPLC focuses on teacher development and seeks to address the literacy crisis facing Florida by transforming schools’ literacy culture through professional development and coaching. The project currently supports schools in six school districts across the state.
Within the coming year, JPLC’s reach will expand by up to five more school districts. Lane also intends to focus efforts on strengthening the expertise of literacy coaches, school leaders and district leaders, as well as examining the impact on participating teachers’ knowledge and students’ reading outcomes.
During the spring of 2020, in response to the coronavirus and the move to emergency remote instruction, Lane’s team developed the UFLI Virtual Teaching Resource Hub to support teachers in JPLC schools. They decided to make the resources available to the public, and since then, the site has had more than 3 million visits from educators in more than 50 countries.
The popularity of the Hub’s reading lesson resources led Lane and her team to develop UFLI Foundations, a curriculum for K-2 students that includes structured phonics lessons to support students’ early literacy development. The curriculum was successfully piloted in one JPLC school during the last school year, and a districtwide implementation this year, is reaching more than 370 teachers and more than 6,000 students.
Through the Irving and Rose Fien Endowed Professorship and beyond, Lane intends to seek advancements and create solutions that ensure children succeed for a lifetime.
“If we can prevent kids from struggling – keep them from getting to that point where they hate school because they can’t read – that is obviously much more effective than waiting to work with them after they’ve been failing,” she said.
Having met with Irving and Rose Fien at the beginning of her career, as they were establishing their College of Education endowment, she feels particularly humbled to create change under their namesake.
“I feel like I understand first-hand from talking with them exactly what their vision was and what their intent was,” she said. “They were very dedicated to literacy, in particular, to address the needs of kids who are experiencing poverty and of kids with disabilities.”
“So, I feel like their goals match my work really well,” she continued, “and the fact that I can now receive this honor – it’s incredibly humbling and it does feel like things have kind of come full circle.”