Professor Linnea Ehri Wins Prestigious Literacy Award From ILA

July 12, 2022

She is recognized for shedding new light on how young people learn to read and spell.

Literacy Award to Prof. Emerita Linnea Ehri
The International Literacy Association honored Distinguished Professor Emerita Linnea Ehri for her groundbreaking research on early literacy and the roots and remediation of reading difficulties. (Credit: Getty Images)

Graduate Center Distinguished Professor Emerita Linnea Ehri (Educational Psychology) won the 2022 William Gray Citation of Merit from the International Literacy Association (ILA). The prestigious award recognizes outstanding contributions to literacy development including research, theory, practice, and policy. 

Ehri has focused her research on reading acquisition processes — the course of development in learning to read words by decoding and from memory by sight; preparing children to learn to read by teaching letters and phonemic awareness; vocabulary learning; learning to spell; reading instruction, particularly systematic phonics instruction; the impact of literacy on language processes; and the causes, prevention, and remediation of reading difficulties. 

Her research has shed new light on psychological processes and sources of difficulty in learning to read and spell. Her studies underscore the importance of beginning readers acquiring knowledge of the alphabetic writing system. One significant finding is that readers use their knowledge of grapheme-phoneme connections to retain sight words in memory. She also has found that learning the spellings of words influences readers’ conception of sounds in the words and helps them learn and remember new vocabulary.

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“I was surprised and felt very honored to join the ranks of highly accomplished scholars in receiving the William S. Gray Citation of Merit award,” Ehri said, in a press statement. “Gray’s stage-based portrayal of the development of reading ability is an important forerunner of approaches such as mine. As one of many researchers who use a scientific approach to understand how reading skill develops, much like Gray’s work on assessment, it is especially gratifying to have the significance of our contributions recognized.”

Ehri is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Educational Research Association. She was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame in 1998, served on the National Reading Panel, and was president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. She has published more than 130 research papers in books and scholarly journals, edited two books, and served on editorial boards of 11 scientific journals, including ILA’s Reading Research Quarterly.

“Ehri’s meticulous research over decades has profoundly influenced the field of literacy education, particularly our understanding of how young children learn to read, spell and learn the meanings of words,” said Nell K. Duke, chair of the William S. Gray Citation of Merit Award Committee, in a press release. “Her research has a deep relevance to practice. She addresses questions that are on the minds of educators and curriculum designers. Numerous programs, interventions and curricula that have been informed by Ehri’s work.”

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