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Dr Holly Joseph – University of Reading

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  • Dr Holly Joseph

    The eyes have it

Dr Holly Joseph

Dr Holly Joseph is a psychologist and Associate Professor at the Institute of Education.

Holly first became interested in language and literacy while teaching English abroad and now works to expose the myths and preconceptions we have around reading.

"It's a common myth that using coloured overlays and specialist fonts can make reading more accessible to those with dyslexia. I talk a lot about the importance of reading comprehension on the MA Education, and about the benefits of bilingualism.

 I also cover myth busting about what works for dyslexia when teaching on the MA Education and the BA Children's Development and Learning.

My aim is that the current generation of teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) will go back to their schools and spread these important messages on the ground."

Holly's work as a psychologist combined with her interest in language and literacy influence the research that she does today, looking at how children develop reading skills and why some children have difficulties, particularly in terms of autism, dyslexia and poor comprehension skills. More recently, she has worked with Dr Naomi Flynn, The Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CELM) and Bilingualism Matters at Reading to help English as an additional language (EAL) learners.

"Assumptions are often made about EAL pupils. My research looks to inform educators and best prepare them to balance the interests of both EAL and English as a first language speakers."

Holly uses eye tracking methodology, which is at the core of what she does, to measure eye movements during reading. This shows how long someone is looking at text and which words they fixate on.

From this information she can gauge how difficult they are finding particular words or phrases to understand and this can reveal why they are having difficulties with reading. She regularly goes into schools to talk to teachers about reading difficulties.

"It's a very complicated picture out there. We have a lot of work to do on improving reading in the UK.

There is an assumption everyone at secondary school can read but many get to secondary level and still have undiagnosed reading difficulties. This is why I want to focus on better education from the very beginning.

My intention is to promote awareness on a national level and then go global with our message."

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