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University Hosting Early Literacy Conference

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi

Keynote speakers for the Understanding Early Literacy conference, set for Sept. 23 at the Oxford Conference Center, are (from left) Nadine Gabb, Tim Odegard and Eric Tridas.

The University of Mississippi will host a daylong conference on early childhood literacy, where renowned experts are to discuss the latest research and strategies to foster reading skills in young children.

The Understanding Early Literacy conference begins at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 23 at the Oxford Conference Center. The event is free to the public, but registration is required. To register, click here.

Funded by a donation from Carol Dorsey, of Tucson, Arizona, the forum is designed to offer resources and advice for pediatricians, educators, parents and caregivers, said John Hodges, director of the North Mississippi Literacy Project which is co-sponsoring the event.

“Participants will hear from researchers, doctors, psychologists and other experts in child development who will inspire and equip you with a better understanding of how you can play a positive role in developing a young child’s literacy skills and therefore their overall academic success and well-being,” Hodges said.

Dorsey and her husband, Bob Dorsey, a former Ole Miss economics professor, gave almost $1 million that helped kick-start the North Mississippi Literacy Project. Other sponsors are the North Mississippi Education Consortium, Shelton School and Lafayette County School District.

“Whether the children you care for are avid readers, struggling learners or still just exploring board books, this conference will help you know how to lay a solid foundation for children’s future academic journey,” said Joyce Pickering, principal of the Shelton School in Dallas.

Keynote speakers are:

  • Nadine Gabb, associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Tim Odegard, professor of psychology and holder of the Katherine Davis Murfree Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies at Middle Tennessee State University
  • Eric Tridas, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, and International Dyslexia Association representative to the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities

“We hope attendees leave this conference inspired and equipped with a better understanding of how they, as an educator, child care provider or parent, can play a positive role in developing a young child’s literacy skills and, therefore, their overall academic success and well-being,” said Peter Grandjean, dean of the School of Applied Sciences, which houses the North Mississippi Literacy Project.

Besides the keynotes, a panel of professionals will discuss efforts to improve literacy in the state. Featured panelists are:

  • Kristen Wynn, state literacy director with the Mississippi Department of Education
  • Kenya Wolff, UM associate professor of early childhood education
  • Alison Webster, professional development coordinator at the Dubard School for Language Disorders
  • Kay Peterson, director of the graduate program in dyslexia therapy at Mississippi College
  • Vishahka Rawool, research director at the North Mississippi Literacy Project
  • Suzanne Ryals, assistant superintendent of the Lafayette County School District

Mississippi, which previously ranked among the worst states in the country in early childhood literacy, now boasts literacy rates higher than the national average.

“Research shows that if a struggling reader can be identified early on – even before entering school – and receive science-based literacy instruction, they are more likely to experience overall academic success and mental well-being than those children who aren’t identified to receive extra help until later in their academic career,” Dorsey said.


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