Episode 11 - Using Science to Decode the Literacy Crisis w/ Ken Pugh, PhD

Episode Summary 
In this episode, Dr. Ken Pugh, an internationally renowned scientist and the President and Director of Research at Haskins Laboratories, addresses the global literacy crisis, drawing attention to the moral responsibility we have to ensure all children can read. He highlights the advances and promise of neuroscience in understanding complex brain mechanisms for reading, as well as the role of neuroscience in exploring potential brain co-morbidities. Finally, we discuss the promise of educational neuroscience as a “translational collaboration” between research and educators, which can ultimately improve learning outcomes for all children.

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.” 

1. When children, particularly in the developing world, don’t have access to resources from birth to age 5, it puts them at a disadvantage for literacy.

2. The brain is wired for language and infants need language stimulation. However, the brain is not biologically wired for reading. 

“Reading is an exercise of brain plasticity.”

3. Neuroscience and specifically, brain imaging measures, has provided insights into:

  • visualizing the way in which the brain builds new circuits to enable a person to read fluently.
  • understanding how the wiring of the brain is different for children who struggle to read.
  • evaluating the effectiveness of high-quality intervention to help struggling readers (i.e. children with dyslexia) to read.
  • gaining insights about the complexity of the brain and its mechanisms for reading, attention, anxiety, and behavior.

“The real promise of neuroimaging and educational neuroscience is the ability to use the exquisite sensitivity [of these methods] to the individual differences in the child’s brain to understand what works for whom and why.”


To learn more from Dr. Pugh, visit:

The Haskins Global Literacy Hub   Dr. Pugh's profile
Learn more about the Windward-Haskins project.

In this episode, Dr. Pugh also mentioned the following resources:

Florida Center for Reading Research   UnderstoodNational Institute of Child and Human Development

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests.