Episode 12 - Literacy in a Pandemic with Ken Pugh, PhD

Episode Summary 
This bonus episode follows our October conversation with Ken Pugh, PhD, “Using Science to Decode the Literacy Crisis.” Dr. Pugh further illustrates the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on literacy around the world, citing current scientific evidence of learning loss related to student access to education resources. While the current pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges in our education systems, Dr. Pugh points to other significant factors which inhibit fundamental education access such as climate change and natural disasters as well as forced migration from violence or political instability. Finally, Dr. Pugh discusses the future of research, policy, and educational technology to support learning outcomes around the world.

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

1. Research shows that the first stages of literacy development require a significant amount of demand from the brain to reorganize networks to support a child’s potential for learning to read.

2. While data is still being collected, it is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges in education such as the summer slide and access to online learning.

For children with learning disabilities, the challenge of the shutdown [during the pandemic] is even worse.

3. Researchers like Dr. Pugh and Dr. Hoeft from Haskins Laboratories are investigating the potential impacts of the pandemic on learning as well as methods to mitigate learning loss.

What exacerbates the situation in under resourced communities is lack of access.


4. While the current pandemic has posed significant challenges to learning around the world, it’s also important to understand the negative impacts of climate change and forced migration on education for children worldwide.

We are really trying to see what research and science [can tell us about] our understanding of the human learner and brain… and how to shape the classroom environment twenty to thirty years in the future.

5. Despite the pervasive, systemic consequences of the pandemic, there is tremendous opportunity to leverage existing resources and devise innovative methods to increase access to education for generations to come.

“As a citizen of the world… I want to see us be able to provide better tools to get kids back on track after this unprecedented [challenge.]


To learn more from Dr. Pugh, visit:

The Haskins Global Literacy Hub   GraphoGame and Ed Tech
COVID-19 Slide and Reading Skills

Or, download READ Podcast using your favorite podcast platform with direct links below:

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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.