Q&A with John Gabrieli, Principal Investigator for Reach Every Reader

November 16, 2020

What is your role in Reach Every Reader?

I have administrative and scientific roles. In regard to administration, I am part of the leadership team for Reach Every Reader that integrates efforts at Harvard, MIT, and Florida State University. In regard to science, my main contribution is to bring neuroscience and cognitive science perspectives to the joint effort, and integrate these perspectives with practical education practices. For example, we conducted a study with the Cambridge Public Schools District to see if a summer program involving small-group teaching could help improve reading skills in children who are struggling with reading. One important research theme is to understand the neural basis of learning in children and to identify ways that neuroscience could help to improve learning in the classroom.

Why is this work meaningful to you?

Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read you will be free forever.” The ability to read skillfully by 3rd grade is fundamental to lifelong learning and opportunity for all children. Too many children lack this skill due to factors like learning differences (such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism) or poverty. Working towards the day when every child can read well is meaningful to me because it speaks to equity and opportunity for all children, and especially those children who are most vulnerable for missing out on opportunities.

How has this COVID19 pandemic impacted your work and/or perspective of how students learn to read at home?

The pandemic has highlighted inequities in education, such as access to technology.  It has also slowed our work with children and schools who are all struggling with what to do in the pandemic. We have pivoted in part with a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District Achievement Network that is comprised of schools serving racially and linguistically diverse and lower-income families. We are examining whether an audio-book program can promote reading and language skills in children at home.

What is your favorite part of Reach Every Reader?

My favorite part is being a member of a community of educators and scientists who are passionate about helping all children learn to read and also thoughtful about the science, technology, practices, and policies that all need to be synthesized to make a real difference in the lives of children.  It is both educational and inspiring for me to see how, through many different but converging approaches, we all strive for the common goal of having all children reach their full potential.

About Dr. Gabrieli – John Gabrieli is a neuroscientist at MIT, and an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. He is a faculty member in the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and director of the Martinos Imaging Center, part of the McGovern Institute. Gabrieli is an expert on the brain mechanisms of human cognition, including memory, thought and emotion. His work includes neuroimaging studies on healthy adults and children as well as clinical patients with many different brain disorders, including depression, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and dyslexia.