Contact: Susan Bennett-Armistead, 581-2418
ORONO — The University of Maine College of Education and Human Development has awarded Susan Bennett-Armistead the Correll Professorship in Early Literacy.
Bennett-Armistead is an assistant professor of literacy area programs and an authority on early literacy and young children’s language and literacy acquisition.
Her appointment was made possible the generosity of Alston D. “Pete” Correll and Ada Lee Correll of Atlanta, Georgia, who last fall provided a $2 million gift to the University of Maine, where Pete Correll received two master’s degrees in engineering, in 1966 and in 1967.
“Thanks to the incredible generosity of Pete and Ada Lee Correll, we are making an important investment in a critical academic area,” says UMaine President Robert Kennedy. “These funds will support Prof. Bennett-Armistead as she leads scholarly initiatives that will have a long-term, positive impact on UMaine and on our state.”
The Correll gift will also support other key UMaine areas. A search is underway for a Correll Presidential Chair in Energy, a leading national expert on wind and tidal energy development to join the UMaine engineering faculty. UMaine will also use funds to provide graduate fellowships in the Dept. of Ecology and Environmental Sciences and other academic areas, while also creating an unrestricted “excellence fund” to use in addressing immediate priorities.
Bennett-Armistead plans to use the funds allocated with her appointment to further early literacy research at UMaine through student stipends and the creation of a new early literacy informational website, a statewide initiative to connect and inform early literacy professionals, parents and others about services, programs and opportunities in the field. Currently in development, the site should go live this month.
“My intent is that the website will serve as sort of a touchstone for early literacy in the state,” Bennett-Armistead says. “There are a number of stellar projects going on throughout the state but we’re all sort of in silos and don’t always know what others are doing. This generates possibilities for interaction.”
Bennett-Armistead wants to educate more parents and others about supporting the important cognitive development period of children between birth and age 5, and more specifically, birth to age 3, the most productive time for language development. The website will be one of several outreach efforts she is planning. Other initiatives will follow.
“This very generously did not attach directives for how it could be used for advancing early literacy in Maine,” says Bennett-Armistead, who has been on the UMaine faculty for four years. “We can use it for conferences, as seed money for research projects, and a small stipend for the person who maintains the website.”
Children who have the advantage of early exposure to language, including being read to, talked with and played with, have better language skills, says Bennett-Armistead. “That translates into more knowledge of the world, better comprehension of text and more knowledge of how language and text works,” an advantage that matters both in the early years and throughout life, she says.
During the Corrells’ time in Maine, Ada Lee Correll taught elementary school in Old Town.