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Breakthroughs in reading research presented

March 10, 2009

KALAMAZOO--An authority on the latest reading research will give some of the newest findings in presentations Thursday, March 19, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Karen Feathers, coordinator of the Reading, Language and Literature program at Wayne State University, will deliver two talks: "Understanding How Readers See Texts: Supporting Student Achievement," from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. in Room 208 of the Bernhard Center; and "The Texts Diverse Readers Need for Success: Compelling Evidence from Eye Movement Research," from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Putney Auditorium of the Fetzer Center. Both presentations are free and open to the public.

Feathers is an award-winning educator internationally known for her work in literacy. Her work has been published in prominent literacy publications, both as research articles and instructional material. Her research has attracted funding support from the Michigan Department of Education, Verizon and the U.S. Department of Education.

Her current work with colleague Dr. Poonam Arya, associate professor in the WSU College of Education, focuses on how reading success is affected by the structures of text readers view. Sensitive eye movement measuring equipment has revealed the reading strategies of at-risk urban students, yielding promising insights about what these young readers need to be efficient readers.

"Karen Feathers' eye-movement research is like a magic key to understanding some significant reasons why readers succeed or fail in comprehending texts," says Dr. Esther Gray, associate professor of special education and literacy studies and co-coordinator of Feathers' WMU appearances. "Because her work makes the reading process visible, it is understandable to experts and also to persons who know very little about how reading works."

Gray says it is both entertaining and thought-provoking to see videos that reveal where readers look on a page of text as they read aloud. The layout of words and the placing of illustrations can contribute to comprehension or confusion.

"The sensitive, technical equipment that tracks readers' eyes and reveals what they look at as they read yields some real surprises that can help teachers, parents or friends support successful reading in diverse readers they know," Gray says.

Feathers' visit is co-sponsored by the WMU Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies; Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies; Department of English; Dorothy J. McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic and the WMU Visiting Scholars and Artists Program.

For more information, contact Dr. Esther Gray at esther.gray@wmich.edu or (269) 552-9022; co-coordinator Dr. Susan Piazza, assistant professor of special education and literacy studies, at susan.piazza@wmich.edu; or the WMU Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies at (269) 387-5935.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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