In 2022, co-founders and directors Tricia Ebarvia (top-R) and Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul (Top-L) host an author panel on the topic of Writing on Race and Identity. The panel also included authors New York Times best-selling author Frederick Joseph (Patriarchy Blues, Better Than We Found It, The Black Friend), Newbery Award-winning author Amina Luqman-Dawson (Freewater), and was facilitated by Gloria Edim, editor and founder of Well Read Black Girl (and special guest appearance by Jason Reynolds!).

The Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy (IREL) is back for its 5th year and another beautiful summer of powerful learning. Join co-directors Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul and Tricia Ebarvia along with educators from across the country as we gather in Washington, D.C., at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. Special thanks to the D.C. Public Library Foundation, whose support helps to make IREL possible.

We are excited to announce a *new* 3-day format for IREL23, providing greater flexibility and accessibility for our participants. Consider signing up for one or both sessions!

  • Session 1: Reading Toward Freedom (K-12) – Sunday, July 16, to Tuesday, July 18, 8am to 4pm
  • Session 2: Writing Toward Freedom (3-12) – Thursday, July 20, to Saturday, July 22, 8am to 4pm
Highlight from IREL 2022

In addition to high quality professional development, IREL also focuses on building community and connections with other educators through joyful learning. And what’s more joyful than playing rock-paper-scissors with a roomful of the friends you’ve made all week!

SuMMER 2023

Session 1: Reading Toward Freedom

July 16, 17,18 (Sun, Mon, Tue) – 8AM to 4PM

NOTE: The IREL Author Panel to take place on July 19 (Wednesday evening) after Session 1 ends on Tuesday. Session 1 participants are invited to stay for this special event!

Developing students’ critical thinking skills is urgent, necessary work, and teachers play a crucial role in helping students read the world in ways that empower them to discern bias, misinformation, and disinformation. In this hands-on workshop, participants will engage in practical classroom strategies to improve instruction.

Recommended for grades K to 12.

Click here to learn more. 

Session 2: Writing Toward Freedom

July 20, 21, 22 (Thurs, Fri, Sat)  – 8AM to 4PM

NOTE: The IREL Author Panel to take place on July 19 (Wednesday evening) before Session 2 official begins on Thursday morning. Session 2 participants are encouraged to arrive early to attend this special event!

Throughout history, social justice and antiracist leaders have used writing as a powerful tool in the pursuit of equality and freedom. Such writers have used their words to raise awareness, point out injustices, and compel fellow citizens to take action. Classrooms are where students can feel empowered — or disempowered — to see and use writing as a vehicle for social change, and teachers play a crucial role in supporting students in using their voices in service of causes they believe in.

Recommended for grades 3 to 12.

Click here to learn more. 



(TOP) Hands-on learning in small groups makes the IREL experience personal and engaging. (BOTTOM) Participants explore the special exhibits throughout the MLK, Jr. Memorial Library.

Who should attend IREL? 

While IREL is focused primarily on literacy, all educators are welcome as antiracist work spans all disciplines and subject areas. Humanities teachers will find IREL especially useful. In the past, participants included K-12 classroom teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, district leaders, teacher educators, authors, and equity teams. In the past, previous participants have found it especially valuable to attend IREL with other educators from their schools.

We are also proud to have also many IREL alumni return for multiple summer sessions; indeed, each one is unique, and this year’s new offerings present exciting opportunities to engage deeper into our instructional practices as teachers of reading and writing. Whether you are new or a returning IREL participant, we can’t wait to work with and learn alongside you!

What is a typical IREL experience like?

We believe it’s our community that makes IREL the special experience it is. Over the years, more than 600 educators have participated in IREL either in-person or online.

During IREL, participants will not only enjoy whole group learning with Sonja and Tricia, but also have a more personal experience through small group learning. Participants will be placed in smaller cohorts, led by one of our IREL facilitators. Each facilitator has extensive classroom experience and helps their cohort members process their learning and build community together. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn from other cohort facilitators in special topic workshops. Finally, racial affinity spaces will be available to meet participants’ different needs.

In addition to the hands-on learning, participants will also have opportunities to explore the D.C. area with its rich offerings of museums and history. A special author panel is always a highlight! (NOTE: The 2023 IREL Author Panel will take place on the day between the two sessions, on Wednesday, July 19. Participants from both sessions are invited to attend!)

In 2022, IREL featured an authors panel with Glory Edim, Frederick Joseph, and Amina Luqman-Dawson. Click above to watch the recorded livestream of the event.

How will this institute meet the needs of educators of color?

As a Black woman (Sonja) and Asian American woman (Tricia), we understand what it is like when professional development experiences do not differentiate for the particular needs or honor the voices and experiences of educators of color. Throughout the week, we have built in opportunities for participants to gather in racial affinity group spaces as one opportunity to provide a space for educators of color to reflect and engage in learning.

How will we use the library space?

Hosting IREL at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library will elevate and amplify the learning experience of participants by providing direct engagement with the library’s resources, history, and legacy. Throughout the week, participants will interact with the library’s collections and displays, with special focus on Black history, literature, and activism in D.C. 

Do I have to attend both sessions?

While we would love for participants to attend both, we know how busy and how precious summer days can be. This year’s format offers participants two different opportunities, each 3-days in length. Come for one or both!

How much does each session cost?

Equity and access are the foundation of this institute, and with that in mind, our goal is to keep registration costs as affordable as possible for educators while also ensuring that our team of facilitators is also compensated for their time and talent.

The registration fee (lunch included) will be $250 for each 3-day session with a discounted rate of $450 for both sessions. Group rates (teams of 5+ from the same school or district) may also qualify for a reduced rate. Scholarship opportunities will also be available for teachers, especially those who represent and/or serve historically marginalized students. Please reach out to Sonja and Tricia directly for more information (

How can I register?

Registration is NOW OPEN! Space will be limited. Consider bringing a group from your school/district! Register online now or download our brochure to register by mail.

I have more questions. Who can I contact?

Please email Sonja and Tricia directly at

What previous participants have to say

If you can only go to one professional development opportunity this year go to IREL. It was life changing. Having the chance to work together and have hard conversations with educators from all parts of the country is a gift. Not only will you leave with a greater understanding of race and racial identity but you will get amazing resources and practical teaching strategies for teaching literacy. The facilitators are joyful, outstanding educators and excellent communicators. I learned how to start the hard conversations and how to be leader in creating change. I can’t wait to go back.

Catherine L.

I was overall very impressed with this experience and in particular found Tricia and Sonja to be excellent facilitators – so knowledgeable, open, kind, but direct.

Middle School Teacher

This institute provided me with the opportunity to interrogate my practices, beliefs and ideologies and how they show you in my spaces and relationships with staff and students.

Cathline T.

My facilitator was amazing. I am so thankful for her guidance and the way she kept us accountable for the work and was honest about her own journey. She shared so much of her work with colleagues and children with us which was so generous, especially when she is grieving. Thank you for creating this community. Overall all the presenters and facilitators were so generous with their time and resources.

3rd Grade Teacher


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