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VCU School of Education's Harris Lecture will explore how to better support young people with reading disabilities
Jade Wexler, Ph.D.

Jade Wexler, Ph.D.

This year’s Ruth Harris Lecture in Dyslexia Studies at the VCU School of Education will feature a leading expert in adolescent literacy speaking on how schools and educators can better meet the needs of adolescents with reading disabilities.

Jade Wexler, Ph.D., an assistant professor of special education at the College of Education at the University of Maryland, will deliver the Ruth Harris Lecture at 4:30 p.m. at The Depot, 814 W. Broad St., on Thursday, Nov. 9.

Wexler’s talk, “Meeting the needs of adolescents with reading disabilities: What do we know, what are some common challenges, and what are some suggestions for future directions?” will be free and open to the public.

“Reading disability is a public health issue, and many students continue to struggle to read in middle and high school,” said Deborah Speece, Ph.D., associate dean of research and faculty development and a professor in the Department of Counseling and Special Education in the School of Education. “Dr. Wexler is a serious scientist and a serious practitioner. [In her lecture], she will blend her research findings with practical applications for the classroom.”

“Despite the growing knowledge base on preventing and remediating early reading disabilities, many students continue to struggle to read and comprehend grade level text in middle and high school.”

Wexler studies effective methods to improve reading instruction across the content areas and in the supplemental intervention setting for adolescents with reading disabilities and behavior disorders. She has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals, and has authored two books on adolescent literacy and related topics.

In her talk at VCU, Wexler will provide an overview of the state of adolescent literacy and what evidence-based practices can best address students’ problems. She will also discuss the examples of two federally-funded projects to illustrate some of the common challenges schools face when attempting to implement these practices. And she will offer suggestions for future directions.

“Despite the growing knowledge base on preventing and remediating early reading disabilities, many students continue to struggle to read and comprehend grade level text in middle and high school,” Wexler wrote in her keynote abstract. “Given the high prevalence of students with reading disabilities in the secondary grades and the grave consequences of poor reading achievement (e.g., school dropout), it is critical that we determine ways to address the needs of adolescents with reading disabilities.”

First held in 2011, the Harris Lecture at the School of Education is made possible thanks to a gift from Ruth and Louis Harris that created the Ruth Harris Professorship in Dyslexia Studies, which aims to enhance the work in the field of language learning and reading disabilities, with a particular focus on dyslexia.

Previous Harris Lecture presenters have included paleontologist Jack Horner; Anne Ford, the great-granddaughter of Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford; and Candace Cortiella, founder and director of the Advocacy Institute.