Itinerary for IRA 2010 in Chicago

photo of sunset through airplane window

Heading Home from IRA's
55th Annual Convention in Chicago

I have almost caught up on everything since returning from the International Reading Association convention in Chicago (especially sleep). It was much better than I anticipated.

Usually the convention starts on Saturday with a reading research conference followed by day-long institutes on Sundays. Both events require separate registration–the institutes cost $115 this year and I think the research conference last year was around $260. Since I have been attending the conventions, the regular convention lasted from Monday to Thursday. This year, the entire convention was shortened by two days going from Sunday to Wednesday only. The Saturday research conference was free, but it was crammed into the regular convention portion. There seemed to be the same amount of session choices typically offered in six days, but they were jam packed into four. This meant there were several sessions I wanted to attend during each block of time–more so than usual. Since I cannot be in two places at the same time, I had to miss several sessions I wanted to attend.

Overall, I was not that happy with the itinerary I created. I went to Chicago believing that this might be my least favorite convention of all-time. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Almost every single session exceeded my expectations. In fact, only one session disappointed me and that was a last minute add-on.

In my previous post, Why You Should Attend an International Reading Association Convention, I discussed how I create a spreadsheet for my itinerary because I can do much more in a spreadsheet than I can by using the online planner. In a spreadsheet, I can highlight speakers, session types, etc., as well as write notes, show alternative plans, and more. As I mentioned in that post, room location can be a determining factor–especially in a large convention center, so I like that to be prominent. Here is what I brought to Chicago with me last week: IRA – Chicago 2010 – Itinerary
Note: The Poetry Olio was actually on Monday and the Informal Storytelling Event was on Tuesday.

Although this convention was shortened, and I went in with a bit of a negative attitude, I must say that I left the convention physically and mentally exhausted, but extremely happy, too! I learned so much and I cannot wait to share my new knowledge and my new TWRCs with you.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse the presenter handouts posted on IRA’s website, along with some of the convention highlights posted on Reading Today Daily.

Note: If you have taken the time to read this, would you please take a second to click on the stars below to rate this post on a scale of 1 to 10? Thanks a bunch–I always appreciate feedback. In addition, if you like a comment, I encourage you to click on the “Like” button so the “Sort by” drop-down menu will be useful. Thanks again and happy TWRCing! :)

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  • Debbie Shoulders

    Glad you had a productive conference. I went in with high hopes (after having attended this conferences many times) and thought it was one of the worst. I did not attend one session that was presented by a practicing teacher. They were all college professors doing research. While I believe there is a place for this, I would also like to learn from those who are in the trenches everyday. I did enjoy the keynote speakers, especially Al Gore.

  • ReadingCountess

    I'm so glad you learned a lot!

  • lindacardwell

    Wow! It sounds like a jam-packed schedule!

  • Julie Niles Petersen


    I'm so sorry to hear that your experience at IRA was not as good as mine. After the research-laden institute I attended on Sunday, I reflected on my recommendation that more teachers attend IRA. I thought that if I did not have much foundational knowledge of reading research, that institute (and the IRA convention in general) might have overwhelmed me. At that point, I didn't give much consideration to the fact that people attend the convention for different reasons, like you and I did. You wanted more sessions by practicing teachers, while I wanted more research oriented sessions. I am rethinking my recommendation now. I would love to hear what those who do not have an advanced degree in reading think about IRA conventions. I wonder how helpful they really are to them and what types of sessions in particular are the most helpful.

    In the past, I attended several sessions given by practicing teachers and was usually disappointed. Now, I typically stick with sessions given by widely cited reading researchers and am not usually disappointed. I love hearing about new research that is being conducted in the field–especially from those who are researching things I never even considered.

    I remember how overwhelmed I felt when I tried to figure out what sessions to attend at my first convention. I asked several people for recommendations and I think that helped. However, you really never know what the session will be like when you attend. I have been really excited about specific sessions, but then let down. On the other hand, there have been sessions where I was not so enthusiastic, but ended up leaving in awe–this happened a lot for me at this convention. (I'm sorry it didn't happen for you.)

    Perhaps next year, I might write a post about selecting sessions. It would be great to hear the thoughts and ideas of others who are going to attend. I am not usually disappointed by the recommendations of others–especially from people who have attended several IRA conventions.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and giving me more food for thought. As for the general session speakers, I especially enjoyed Queen Rania. :)

  • Julie Niles Petersen

    Thanks, Reading Countess! I do love to learn. :D

    P.S. Have you ever presented for IRA? I bet you would be great!

  • Julie Niles Petersen


    That is funny you say that because I felt it was a little less jam-packed than normal. I really like to get my money's worth! :)

    Usually there are only 45 minutes between sessions which I think is just about right. This year, there was usually 60 minutes between each session which I felt was a little too long. Fortunately, many of my sessions were close to the exhibit area, so I managed to sneak in a little more exhibit time than usual. Perhaps that is why IRA did it that way.

  • Dawn Little

    I'm a bit late to the party here, Julie! You have provided fantastic information regarding IRA 2010! I am in AWE of your spreadsheet itinerary! I may have to have you help me create one of those next year! It would certainly keep me on track! It was so wonderful to meet you in person and share the Storytellers event with you. I hope to see you next year!

  • Julie Niles Petersen


    It is never too late to come to the party. :) It was wonderful meeting you at IRA this year! I look forward to seeing you in Orlando. :)

    As to the spreadsheet itinerary, it has helped me out a lot and I would gladly help you with one next year. Hopefully, I will not mix up the dates for the Poetry Olio and the Informal Storytelling Event again. I think part of that mix up was because these events were not listed in the online program and I did not refer to the hard copy of the program that much this year. I think you would have really loved the Poetry Olio.