Faculty and Staff Profiles

The Literacy Studies Faculty is comprised of researchers focused on researching literacy and literacy education in order to understand and contribute to the literacy knowledge of international, national, state, and local literacy education. Each faculty member focuses on specific areas of literacy in their research, teaching, and outreach.

Rachel Salas, Ph. D.

Rachel Salas


As a literacy educator Dr. Salas focuses on the academic literacy needs of English Language Learners (ELLs), the preparation of teachers to work with, and meet the needs of an increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse student population, and issues of race, culture and language in the classroom and in children’s literature. She has more than twenty years of experience working with high poverty, Hispanic, and culturally and linguistically diverse learners and their parents. Her university teaching career began at a designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in south Texas and has taken her to universities and schools in North Carolina, California and Nevada. Dr. Salas' current research deals with the sociocultural aspects of language and literacy development, the preparation of teachers to teach in a culturally and linguistically diverse society and on improving literacy instruction provided to English Language Learners (ELLs) and students who are in at-risk conditions. She is also interested in studying the complex relationship between the cognitive and linguistic demands of academic literacy in school and informal educational settings. Dr. Salas is also passionate about science and technology and has been involved in forming and co-coaching a robotics club for elementary school children. Her robotics teams have competed at local First Lego League competitions affording the students immeasurable academic, social, and technical opportunities.

Diane Barone, Ed. D.



Diane Barone is a foundation professor of literacy at the University of Nevada, Reno. She became a member of The Reading Hall of Fame in 2015. Currently she is serving as President of the International Literacy Association. Her research focuses on young children's literacy development and instruction in high poverty schools. She has conducted two longitudinal studies of literacy development: one, a four-year study of children prenatally exposed to crack/cocaine and two, a seven-year study of children, predominantly English Language Learners, in a high-poverty school. She has had articles published in journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, Elementary School Journal, The Reading Teacher, Gifted Childhood Quarterly, and Research in the Teaching of English. She has written several books: Resilient Children, Research-Based Practices in Early Literacy, and Using Your Core Reading Program and Children's Literature K-3 and 4-6. She works in public schools to enhance student learning in literacy and she has mentored teachers seeking National Board Certification. She served as the Editor of Reading Research Quarterly and was a board member of the International Reading Association and the National Reading Conference. She is currently Editor of The Reading Teacher with Marla Mallette.

Diane Barone's Curriculum Vitae

Julie Pennington, Ph.D.

Julie Pennington


Julie Pennington is a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education and director of the Center for Learning and Literacy. She has focused on the areas of literacy and diversity throughout her career as a classroom teacher and literacy intervention teacher for fourteen years and currently as a teacher educator and researcher. Her research interests include the use of autoethnography in teacher education and pursuing questions related to how teachers approach literacy instruction in linguistically and culturally diverse settings. She is the author of three books, The Colonization of Literacy Education, Educating for Critical Democratic LiteracyAutoethnography: Process, Product, and Possibility for Critical Social Research, and several articles and book chapters focused on issues related to literacy instruction in diverse settings.

Julie Pennington's Curriculum Vitae

Dianna Townsend, Ed. D.

Dianna Townsend


Dianna Townsend is an Associate Professor of Literacy Studies in the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research specializations are in the areas of academic language and adolescent literacy. Her research has been published in The Elementary School Journal, Reading Research Quarterly, Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, among others, and focuses on the vocabulary development of English learners as well as the broader construct of academic English. Dr. Townsend teaches classes in content area literacy, adolescent literacy, and literacy foundations and research, and she was formerly a secondary English teacher. Her doctoral work included research on the early identification of ELLs with reading difficulties and the development and experimental evaluation of an after-school vocabulary development intervention for middle-school English Learners. Her current research, which is funded by research grants from UNR, investigates the importance of academic language proficiency for achievement across content areas, as well as best practices for professional development in providing academic language support to struggling readers. Dr. Townsend also conducts extensive outreach to local school districts, providing support to secondary teachers and their students.

Dianna Townsend's Curriculum Vitae

Sara Kersten, Ph.D.

Dr Kersten


Sara Kersten is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research focuses on children's literature and early childhood literacy with an emphasis on multiliteracies and multimodality, and has presented her work at numerous national and international conferences. She is also interested in supporting and helping preservice teachers meet the needs of diverse learners through adopting arts-based and multiliteracies practices. Dr. Kersten previously taught elementary school for several years and now teaches classes on early childhood literacy and literacy foundations at the university. Her current research deals with helping preservice teachers challenge long-held beliefs about teaching ELA to young children while utilizing arts-based pedagogies  in their instruction of their future students. Additionally, Dr. Kersten is investigating how preservice teachers' conceptions about nonfiction influence their understanding and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. 

Sara Kersten's Curriculum Vitae


Monika Bharti, M.Ed.

Monika Bharti, Graduate AssistantGRADUATE ASSISTANT: Coordinator for the Center Tutoring Programs

Monika Bharti is currently a Ph.D. student in the College of Education and a graduate assistant in the literacy department.  She is an international student from India and received her M.Ed. from the University of Nevada, Reno.  She also holds a Masters degree in Chemistry from the University of Delhi, India.  She has experience teaching at both the elementary and secondary level.