IFERI Committee Members Profile

Professor James Chapman: New Zealand

James Chapman is Professor of Educational Psychology and International Advisor at the Massey University Institute of Education. He received his M.A. with Distinction in Education from Victoria University of Wellington, and his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Alberta, Canada, specializing in cognitive-motivational factors associated with learning disabilities. Professor Chapman trained as a secondary school teacher and taught for two years before undertaking doctoral studies in Canada. Following the completion of his PhD, he joined Massey University in 1980, and has held positions as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, and Professor. He served for 8 ½ years as Head of the Department of Learning and Teaching, and 10 years as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Dean) of the College of Education. He has published over 100 journal articles, book chapters and books on learning disabilities, special education, literacy learning difficulties, early literacy development, reading intervention, and self-system factors in academic achievement. He serves or has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Learning Disability Quarterly, Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, the Asia-Pacific Journal of Development Differences, and the International Journal for Research in Learning Disabilities. Professor Chapman served a 4-year term as President of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities, and has been a member of the Executive Board for 20 years. In 1999 he was co-winner of the International Reading Association’s Dina Feitelson Award for Excellence in Research. He is currently Co-Principal Investigator of a New Zealand Ministry of Education funded longitudinal literacy research project (Enhancing Literacy Learning Outcomes for Year 1 Children) focusing on literacy learning in Year 1 children and professional development for teachers of Year 1 children. Published June 2015: Excellence and equity in literacy education: the case of New Zealand. W.E. Tunmer & J.W. Chapman (eds.) (June, 2015). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

"Literacy is arguably the most important goal of schooling as, to a large extent, it determines young children's educational and life chances and is fundamental in achieving social justice. New Zealand's literacy education programme has long been regarded as one of the world's most successful approaches to teaching literacy skills to young children. Excellence and Equity in Literacy Education questions this widely held assumption. In the late 1990s the New Zealand government developed a national literacy strategy aimed at reducing persistently large inequities in literacy achievement outcomes. The chapters in this edited volume present evidence indicating that the national literacy strategy has failed, examine the major factors responsible for the continuation of New Zealand's comparatively wide spread of scores in literacy achievement, and describe the most effective strategies for reducing the literacy achievement gap and achieving excellence and equity in New Zealand literacy education."

Dr Molly de Lemos AM, BSc (Hons), MSc (Natal), PhD (ANU), MAPsS: Australia

Dr Molly de Lemos is a former President of Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA), an organization dedicated to assisting students with learning difficulties through effective teaching practices based on scientific research.  Her initial training was in psychology, and her post graduate research was in the area of conceptual development, using Piagetian tasks to examine conceptual development in children from different cultural groups (Zulu children in South Africa and Aboriginal children in Australia). (more…)

Anne Glennie: Scotland

Anne Glennie is a literacy consultant and trainer, author of Reflective Reading and Phonics Forever, and owner of The Learning Zoo. To date, she has trained over 7000 teachers across 600 schools and counting, in all aspects of literacy and assessment in Scotland. A classroom teacher first and foremost, Anne provides training that delegates describe as 'fun', 'thought-provoking' and 'inspirational' – with an emphasis on the practicalities of teaching and learning in a primary classroom. (more…)

Susan Godsland: England

Susan’s introduction to evidence-informed reading instruction and synthetic phonics came through reading Diane McGuinness’s book Why Children Can’t Read and Bonnie Macmillan’s book Why Schoolchildren Can’t Read. These two books first opened her eyes to the real reason why huge numbers of English-speaking children were failing to learn to read and write and why so many were being labelled as ‘dyslexic’. (more…)

Debbie Hepplewhite MBE FRSA: England

A former teacher, special needs teacher and headteacher, Debbie has campaigned extensively over many years to achieve national, research-informed, systematic synthetic phonics teaching in primary schools. As a representative of the UK Reading Reform Foundation (former editor of the RRF newsletter, founder of the RRF website and Honorary Committee Member), she advised the British Government for the parliamentary inquiry ‘Teaching Children to Read’ (March 2005) and she helped to inform Sir Jim Rose’s ‘Independent review of the teaching of early reading’ (Final Report, Jim Rose, March 2006). (more…)

Yvonne Meyer: Australia

"When my son started school, I was excited to see how different his classroom was to anything I had experienced in my childhood. There were no assigned seats, and the children could move around at will in a room full of beanbags, books and toys. At the end of the first year, I told my son’s teacher that I thought there was a problem with his learning but she assured me he was making good progress. (more…)

Professor Tom Nicholson: New Zealand

Tom Nicholson is a Professor of Education in the Institute of Education at Massey University. Tom gained his PhD at the University of Minnesota and worked at the University of Waikato and then at the University of Auckland where he held a personal chair in Education and was co-head of the School of Education before coming to Massey University's Auckland campus in 2006 where he is a Professor of Literacy Education. Tom currently teaches in a range of areas including human development, research methods, language, literacy, and cognitive development, and the teaching of writing in the classroom. In 2009 he was elected to the International Reading Association's Reading Hall of Fame - he is the fifth New Zealander to be elected to the Hall of Fame and one of two working at a New Zealand University. He has taught many papers including the reading process, psychology of reading, developmental psychology, issues in education, human development, language literacy and cognitive development, educational research methods, research methods for professional practice, teaching writing in the classroom, applied behavior analysis, child language development, language and cognition, and reading difficulties. He has generated more than 170 publications including 25 books. Recent authored and co-authored books include Phonics Handbook, Teaching Expository Text Structure, Teaching Reading Vocabulary, Teaching Reading Comprehension, Dyslexia Decoded, and the New Zealand Dyslexia Handbook (see the YouTube clip below). Tom directed an after-school reading project for ten years attended by many hundreds of pupils needing help with learning to read and spell. He is married, lives in Auckland, likes walking and jogging, cafes, the movies, and looking at art. Publications: The effect of phonics-enhanced Big Book reading on the language and literacy skills of six-year-old pupils of different reading ability attending lower SES schools, by Laura Tse, Tom Nicholson, 2014, published in Frontiers in Psychology, section Cognitive Science. Phonics Handbook by Tom Nicholson, published in 2005 by Wiley (UK)  

Sir Jim Rose CBE, LLD, FRSA: England

Update: Sir Jim Rose was a founding member of the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction. Very sadly, Jim died on 9th February 2023 aged 83. His contribution to literacy is profound and his work renowned internationally. Jim’s wife, Pauline (the ‘love of his life’) died in 2021. Jim and Pauline are survived by daughter, Alison, and two grandchildren, Ben and Daisy. Jim was an active contributor to the IFERI group including providing posts for the IFERI blog. He was interested in the promotion of quality reading instruction to his dying days. Akin to Bob Sweet Jr., Jim was such a kind, gentlemanly and supportive individual providing friendship and mentoring above and beyond what could be expected from the conscientious. All of us at the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction, and many others who knew Jim, or who knew of Jim, wish his family our condolences and warmest best wishes. Click here to learn more about Jim and his work. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sir Jim Rose was formerly Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMI) of Primary Education, and Director of Inspection for the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) in England. He retired from OFSTED in July 1999. (more…)

Dr. Linda Siegel: Canada

Linda Siegel is the former Dorothy C. Lam Chair in Special Education and an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She has over 200 publications on early identification and intervention to prevent reading problems, dyslexia, reading and language development, mathematical concept learning, mathematical learning disabilities, and children learning English as a second language. She has been the President of the Division of Learning Disabilities of the Council on Exceptional Children.  In 2010, she was awarded the Gold Medal for Excellence in Psychological Research from the Canadian Psychological Association.  In 2012 she was awarded the Eminent Researcher Award from the Learning Difficulties Association of Australia. Linda has recently published a book entitled, Understanding Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities, (Pacific Educational Press) written for parents, teachers, and professionals. This addresses how our educational system has failed to identify many children with learning disabilities and calls for the adoption of straightforward diagnostic techniques so that treatment options can be implemented at a young age. Many children who struggle with learning become discouraged in the classroom and isolated from their peers. Linda raises the fact that many adults whose learning disabilities were not recognized in school suffer from deep feelings of inadequacy that often prevent them from developing close relationships, finding rewarding employment, or living happily. Linda challenges the use of complex and time-consuming testing that is currently used to diagnose learning disabilities. In their place, she outlines simple and pragmatic techniques for testing for disabilities in reading, mathematics, spelling, and writing. She implores families, teachers, and other educational professionals to provide resources and services for all those struggling with learning so that no more lives are compromised. Read Dr. Linda Siegel's Statement on Dyslexia

Abigail Steel BA Hons PTE LLB: England

“I come from a long line of teachers: my mother, grandmother and great grandmother - and aren’t all mothers teachers anyway? At first I resisted the profession and then discovered that I had a talent and passion in life for teaching children but also for teaching the adults that work with children. I became particularly interested in the ‘Early Years Debate’ (the learning through play/direct teaching balance) and the ‘Reading Debate’ and studied avidly in these domains. I attended every course available, read research studies and listened to many experts and then, of course, I myself was teaching in early years and primary education and was constantly able to link the theory with the practice to gain a clearer understanding of the issues and the reality of differences in outcomes from explicit systematic teaching using specific techniques supported by content-rich materials. I also became very interested in Special Educational Needs (SEN) and children with Profound Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) and again embarked in learning as much as possible from experts, research, courses and practical experience. I ran projects with my Local Education Authority working with the Ethnic Minority And Gypsy Roma Traveller Association; became the SEN Co-ordinator at my school and I ran a popular holiday club through the Easter and Summer holidays for children aged 5 – 19 years with SEN and PMLD. My desire to help others educationally led me to start writing educational magazine articles and provide consultancy services for publishers of educational resources for both systematic synthetic phonics provision and for various special needs, communication, literacy and literature projects. I found that by exploring mediums outside of the classroom I could reach a wider audience and share my educational messages with more and more teachers and families. I began to provide parent information sessions for schools, local community groups and for volunteer-readers’ organisations. In addition, I continued to teach in the classroom and began to tutor primary and secondary pupils in literacy, history and maths. In 2010, I set up my own consultancy business to reach as many families as possible. I continue to work with children and families, with teachers and whole school staff teams, and with universities to motivate and educate the adults who will be passing on their skills, knowledge and care. You will also find me travelling the world leading INSET days, training and consulting in schools; leading conferences and seminars; writing books and articles on many education topics; designing educational resources for various publishers and hosting training sessions for teachers and parents looking to take their knowledge and skills to a new level. The reason I am passionate about the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction is because daily I meet parents and teachers who simply want to know how best to help their children and I am well aware of the international scenario whereby there is no guarantee that learners of the English language will be taught by research-informed practices. With the right knowledge, understanding, supportive resources and teaching and learning techniques, we could achieve a profound improvement in literacy standards across the world.”

Professor William Tunmer: New Zealand

William Tunmer is Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology at the Massey University Institute of Education. He received his PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979, specializing in the areas of theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, and cognitive development. From 1980 to 1988 he held the positions of Research Fellow, Lecturer, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Australia. In 1988 he was appointed Professor of Educational Psychology at Massey University, where he served as Head of Department and Dean of the Faculty of Education. Professor Tunmer has published over 150 journal articles, book chapters, and books on early literacy development, literacy learning difficulties, and reading intervention. He has served on the editorial boards of Reading Research Quarterly, Language and Education, Reading and Writing, and Journal of Learning Disabilities, and in 2012 he completed a 5-year term as Associate Editor of Reading and Writing. Major addresses include the 1998 Mcdonnell-Pew Research Seminar at Oxford University, the 1999 Herbison Lecture (New Zealand), the 2001 Schonell Memorial Lecture (Australia), the 2009 Cruickshank Memorial Lecture (IARLD), as well as invited scientific addresses at the 1996, 2000, and 2012 International Congresses of Psychology (Montreal, Stockholm, Cape Town) and three NATO Advanced Studies Institutes (France, 1991; Portugal, 1994; Italy, 2001). Professor Tunmer has been a Visiting Scholar at the School at Education at Stanford University, the Centre for Cognitive Science at the University of Texas, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Nijmegen, the Netherlands), Haskins Laboratories at Yale University, the Child Research and Study Centre at SUNY Albany, the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, and the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at the University of Texas. In 1999 Professor Tunmer was co-winner of the International Reading Association’s Dina Feitelson Award for Excellence in Research. His latest publication is: Tunmer, W.E., & Chapman, J.W. (Eds.) (2015). Equity and excellence in literacy education: The case of New Zealand  

The Right Honorable Robert W. Sweet, Jr: USA

Update: Bob Sweet was a founding member of the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction. Very sadly, Bob died on 17th July 2019. In doing so, not only did he leave his wonderful wife, Joy, and a family of several generations broken-hearted, he left us all broken-hearted. Some people describe that Bob did more than anyone to champion evidence-informed reading instruction. His tireless contribution ranged from achieving significant legislation in America to recognising the work of exceptional teachers, to supporting individuals across the world in their pioneering efforts. He continued this support and friendship throughout his ill-health and until he left us. Bob was a unifying and active founding member of the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction. He alerted his wide network of associates about the IFERI aspirations and it is thanks to Bob that we have such an acclaimed international Advisory Group. All of us at the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction, and many others who knew Bob, wish Joy and family our condolences and warmest best wishes. As Founder and President of The National Right to Read Foundation from 1993 until the present, Bob testified before Congress, state legislative education committees, local school boards, and parent groups promoting reading instructional programs based on valid, empirical, scientific evidence. (more…)

Grace Vilar – South America

Grace Vilar, former English teacher and Headteacher, is a Bilingual Literacy and Educational Consultant and Synthetic Phonics trainer based in Argentina. Grace has wide experience in bilingual Spanish and English schools in Latin America. As an expert in the field of Literacy in the bilingual context, Grace gives training and sustained consultancy support on 'How to teach reading, spelling and writing in English using the Synthetic Phonics method'. This includes a full generic appreciation of the Systematic Synthetic Phonics Teaching Principles alongside the rationale and guidance underpinning several commercial systematic synthetic phonics programmes (Jolly Phonics, Oxford Reading Tree Floppy’s Phonics Sounds and Letters, Phonics International). Based on the huge success of this approach for teaching English, Grace has subsequently developed systematic synthetic phonics for teaching Spanish and is the author of Phonics International for Spanish (PROGRAMA PHONICS INTERNATIONAL DE ALFABETIZACIÓN EN ESPAÑOL). She trains teachers who are in charge of delivering the Spanish curriculum on Fonetica y ortografia sintetica: El codigo Alfabetico Español y las habilidades de lectura y escritura. Grace also trains on 'Classroom Management', 'Cooperative learning and group work', and 'Reading and writing strategies'. As a Bilingual Consultant, Grace gives advice to schools on 'How to build an effective bilingual curriculum'. She travels around Latin America sharing her knowledge, experience and her tried and tested strategies to train and support teachers in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Peru and Mexico and is herself constantly learning more about the world of bilingual literacy. “I have been teaching English as a second language in bilingual schools in Argentina for more than 30 years now. I myself have been taught to read and write simultaneously in both languages, my two boys as well. I am now happy to share my experience with the world! I was the Head of English Primary at Colegio San Antonio in Areco, a Spanish English bilingual school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, until December 2011. When I joined the school back in 2002, the school's main concern was to raise standards and to help children learn the English language as accurately as possible, and that entailed reading and writing. As Spanish speakers, our children were using their Spanish hypothesis to read and write in English, they were using the Spanish alphabetic code instead of the English one. They were transferring their Spanish strategy of letter-sound correspondences to English words, so the English language started having a “Spanish accent” when reading, and “Spanish spelling” when writing. All this was causing innumerable problems, from listening and speaking to understanding. I started the search for effective programmes to teach children how to read and write in English. At that time we were following the UK National Literacy Strategy with the 'searchlights multi-cueing model' to teach children to read and write. It was very hard work, and even though we became very good at teaching analytic phonics, we were very frustrated because there was always 30-40% of children who would struggle and find it very hard to learn. Children would resort to their mother tongue to be able to memorise all the English words with a complex code. When spelling, they would translate the letters of the word into Spanish sounds, so words such as ‘made’ /m/ai/d/, would be /m/ /a/ /d/ /e/, sounding out the individual letters in Spanish, then they would read that word going back to English: m/ai/d, and of course total understanding was not there! In 2006 I had the opportunity of visiting schools in Oxford (England) and came across a “new” way of teaching children how to read and write using a Synthetic Phonics approach, and at that time it was 'Jolly Phonics'. I was struck by how effective the programme was. Once back in Argentina, I implemented the programme and the results were unbelievable. One of the major pluses was the improvement in spelling and pronunciation, which was one of our major concerns. It was amazing to see that once the children had cracked the alphabetic code of those first 42 sounds, they immediately started to master the pronunciation and spelling of English with the accuracy we had been seeking. The children showed greater confidence in writing and reading skills and the progression to reading books, even those which were not purely phonically decodable, was seamless because children were not afraid to pick up any book and have a go at reading it. For the first time in the school, reading aloud and writing became a pleasure! Teachers started enjoying teaching in a way they had not experienced before, parents were delighted to see their children´s progress and enthusiasm showing commitment to learning. The school standards raised dramatically. As a consequence of the good results we got in school, some other schools in Argentina got involved in the new method and started asking for training, so from my school in San Antonio de Areco, synthetic phonics started spreading all over Argentina, then Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Brazil. We now have cumulative, decodable reading books to support the phonics teaching and results are better still. This was the beginning of a long and important journey in my professional life as an educator, English teacher and Literacy consultant. Since then I have come a long way and I have met amazing professionals such as Sue Lloyd and Debbie Hepplewhite who became my inspiration and very good friends, and whom I meet every year when I visit the UK to continue my own professional development. I am passionate about bilingual education and how we can better ourselves as teachers to provide more quality opportunities for our students!” Grace Vilar 2015

Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall AM, BA, PhD, C.Psychol, FASSA, FBPsS, FCollP, FIARLD, MAPS, MCEDP: Australia

Current and previous positions Prior to his retirement at the end of 2011, Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall, AM served as Professor and Director of Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC) for over twenty years. He continues to serve as Chairman of the Board (and as a director) of MultiLit Pty Ltd, a university spin-off company established in 2006, and is the Director of the MultiLit Research Unit Fellowships A registered psychologist, he is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, the College of Preceptors (UK), the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Among other honours, he has also served as Honorary General Secretary of the British Psychological Society and as President of Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA). Research and Publications    He has researched and written extensively in the area of learning and behaviour difficulties with particular emphasis on classroom behaviour management and helping low-progress readers. In 1995, he established the MultiLit (Making Up Lost Time In Literacy) Initiative, to research and develop intensive literacy interventions for low-progress readers. He is the author of over three hundred academic books, chapters, and journal articles in the field of educational psychology and Special Education. He has also produced a number of instructional materials. He jointly founded the international journal ‘Educational Psychology’ which he edited for over thirty years and continues to edit the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties. In addition to his academic writing, he also writes for teachers and parents in professional and popular magazines and newspapers and his opinions on matters educational (especially with regard to reading and related literacy skills) are frequently sought by the media. He has acted as an adviser to both state and federal government education bodies and ministers on matters relating to Special Education generally and on behaviour and reading in particular.  Awards            In 2005, he was presented with a Macquarie University Community Outreach Award for his work on MultiLit with socially disadvantaged groups. In 2008 Wheldall was awarded the Mona Tobias Award of Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA) “in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the field of learning difficulties in Australia”.  In 2009 he was inducted into the Macquarie University Innovators Hall of Fame for his work. On Australia Day 2011, he was appointed a Member (AM) in the Order of Australia “for service to education as an academic and researcher, particularly in the areas of learning and behavioural difficulties, and through the design and implementation of innovative literacy programs”. In September, 2014, he was presented with the Inaugural Award of the Australian Association for Special Education (New South Wales) “in recognition of an outstanding contribution to Special Education”. In 2015, he was presented with the Fiftieth Anniversary Special Award by Learning Difficulties Australia for his services to the association (especially its publications) and to the field of learning difficulties generally. Examples of recent articles:

Why Jaydon Can't Read: The Triumph of Ideology Over Evidence in Teaching Reading (Jennifer Buckingham, Kevin Wheldall and Robyn Beaman-Wheldall, November 2013)

Ensuring that (almost) all children can learn to read (Kevin Wheldall, Professional Educator) Should we dispense with the D word? (Kevin Wheldall, Anne Castles and Mandy Nayton, Learning Difficulties Australia Bulletin, May 2014)