Early Learning

Harvard, Florida State, MIT Research to Tackle Young Child Reading

Harvard, Florida State, MIT Research to Tackle Young Child Reading 

Three universities will be working together to come up with ways to help young students learn how to read well by the end of third grade to boost their subsequent education efforts. "Reach Every Reader" will bring together researchers from MIT's Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili), the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Florida State University's Florida Center for Reading Research and the School of Communication Science and Disorders in the College of Communication and Information. The project is being funded by a five-year, $30 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

Third grade was set as the baseline, according to the participants, because research has shown that readers who fail to read adequately in first grade have a 90 percent probability of reading poorly in fourth grade and a 75 percent chance of reading poorly in high school.

The work will encompass multiple streams: use of brain research; development of diagnostic tools and interventions to help young children before they fail; and build-up of capacity among educators, parents, other caregivers and policymakers to understand personalized learning and its instructional strategies.

John Gabrieli, a professor in brain and cognitive sciences and director of MITili, and his team will be working with the researchers from Florida State on diagnostic tools, such as a web-based application that can identify children's reading challenges early in their learning in order to guide them towards personalized interventions.

A major aspect of Reach Every Reader will be to scrutinize which interventions work for which students, adding to the research in the emerging fields of cognitive development of learning in children and neuroscience in education. The teams will work with schools to try out these interventions with kindergarten students in summer programs and, longer term, to implement the tools in school curriculum.

The researchers at Florida State will also focus on creation of assessment content and a "gamified" suite of activities for students. The team will work with the Harvard researchers to align assessments to the newly developed interventions and with researchers at MIT to develop new technologies for assessment purposes.

"Nothing is more fundamental to all aspects of education and citizenship than the power to read," Gabrieli said in a prepared statement. "This collaboration is inspired by the mission of trying to have every child, regardless of circumstance, learn to read well enough by third grade so that every child can read to learn throughout the schooling and workplace years."

Added Hugh Catts, from Florida's School of Communication Science and Disorders, "We know that reading and language disabilities can have a significant negative impact on children's academic achievement, psychosocial well-being and future employment opportunities. So it is crucial that we identify children who are at risk early and provide them with appropriate intervention."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.