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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Maureen Lovett, PhD, C.Psych

The Hospital for Sick Children
Learning Disabilities Research Program

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

University of Toronto
Department of Paediatrics

Graduate Faculty
Institute of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine

Graduate Faculty
Applied Psychology and Human Development, OISE

Other Positions
Graduate Faculties of Psychology
University of Guelph and York University

Phone: 416-813-6319
Fax: 416-813-6126
Email: maureen.lovett@sickkids.ca
Alternate Phone: 416-813-6329

For more information, visit:

Learning Disabilities Research Program (LDRP)

Brief Biography

Dr. Lovett is a Senior Scientist in the Neurosciences & Mental Health Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and a Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. She is appointed to the Graduate Faculty in the Institute of Medical Sciences and in Human Development and Applied Psychology (OISE), both at the University of Toronto, and in Psychology at the University of Guelph and York University.

She has a PhD in psychology from McGill University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in paediatric neuropsychology at SickKids.  Dr. Lovett is a registered psychologist with the College of Psychologists of Ontario.

She is the Founder and Director of the SickKids Learning Disabilities Research Program (LDRP), a clinical research unit dedicated to developing and evaluating different approaches to intervention for children and adolescents with developmental reading disabilities.  Dr. Lovett is recognized internationally for her contributions to reading disabilities research and practice, particularly regarding intervention.

Research Interests

  • The etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of developmental reading disorders across the lifespan
  • The genetics and neurobiology of developmental neurocognitive disorders. 
  • Methodological and training issues in the rehabilitation of neurocognitive disorders
  • Transfer-of-learning failures in intervention response—measurement and rehabilitation issues. 
  • Individual differences in treatment response among children and youth with developmental neurocognitive disorders

Research Activities

My research program is devoted to the study of reading disorders of childhood and adolescence, with a focus on developmental dyslexia—what is now known as developmental reading disability (RD).  My lab is a clinical research unit known as the Learning Disabilities Research Program (LDRP).  Most ongoing projects are treatment outcome studies, and evaluate the efficacy of different forms of intervention for children and adolescents with developmental reading disorders.  In these projects, we ask questions about core neurocognitive impairments and their specificity.  My group is also heavily invested in the study of response to treatment and use treatment outcome data to address questions about the mechanisms of cognitive dysfunction contributing to developmental reading disorders. Over the past 25 years, we have conducted a series of treatment outcome studies on reading disorders, asking what constitutes effective treatment for specific cognitive problems, what treatment factors facilitate generalization and maintenance of positive response, and what diagnostic factors predict treatment response.  This research has been supported by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute of Education Sciences, as well as by provincial and federal granting agencies in Canada.

Research-to-practice:  The Empower™/PHAST Reading Interventions

My research on the components of effective reading intervention for children and adolescents with reading disabilities led to development of a series of reading interventions known in research as the PHAST Reading programs.  These programs are designed to help struggling readers of different ages improve basic decoding and word identification skills, and develop better reading comprehension and fluency. As part of the research, I and the LDRP team have developed PHAST Comprehension and PHAST Fluency modules of the program for elementary and for middle school struggling readers, and PHAST PACES, an intervention program for struggling readers in high school.

Recently this research program has been extended to include a heavy knowledge translation effort. The interventions developed by our LDRP group are now available to help struggling readers in elementary and high schools in 21 school boards across Canada.  In 2006, SickKids published the first prototypes of the program intended for wider-spread distribution and commercialization. The program has been trademarked as Empower™ Reading, and since September 2006, is being offered in 21 school boards in Ontario and Manitoba, with pilot projects in British Columbia and Alberta.  The LDRP has trained and mentored 800 teachers who have taught more than 8000 children and youth in the first six years of this community rollout.

This is the first wave of a rollout and commercialization plan undertaken by the Hospital in response to the demand for the program both in Canada and in the US. Teacher training is an important part of the rollout, and training and mentoring of Empower™ and PHAST teachers remains a large part of the work.  Empower Reading™ programs and the associated teacher training services are now available for teaching struggling readers at both elementary and high school levels, and new modules continue to be developed for future rollout.

New Research Interests

Until recently, my research program has been devoted to the study of reading problems only in childhood and adolescence.  From 2009-2011, I served on a National Academies of Science (NRC) Learning Sciences Panel undertaking a study of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, with the NRC report published in 2012.  During this experience, I became very interested in the problems faced by adult struggling readers and the issues involved in developing effective literacy interventions for adult learners.

In September 2012, with Dr. Daphne Greenberg (PI, Georgia State University), Dr. Art Graesser (University of Memphis), Dr. Jan Frijters (Brock University), and Dr. Lee Branum Martin (Georgia State University), I was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (US Department of Education) as part of the first National Research and Development Center on Cognition and Adult Literacy.  Ten million dollars of funding came from the Institute of Education Sciences (US Department of Education) and is for a five-year period (2012-2017).  According to recent assessments of adult literacy, close to 43 per cent of adults in the US and 48 per cent in Canada have difficulty reading the print materials they encounter in their homes, neighbourhoods, and workplaces; 20 per cent of adults from 18 to 64 possess basic skills that are considered insufficient for today’s workplace. Understanding the underlying reasons for their difficulties, and developing interventions to ameliorate their reading deficits is a priority for the Obama administration with its focus on improving the workplace readiness of its youth.

Our newly-formed Center for the Study of Adult Literacy (CSAL) has three sites—Atlanta, Toronto, and Memphis.  CSAL will attempt to contribute to the adult literacy literature by focusing on three major goals:  to conduct research on the underlying cognitive and motivational processes that contribute to or inhibit the reading proficiency of adult learners at third to eighth grade reading levels, to develop instructional designs for this population within an iterative development framework, and to conduct feasibility studies and pilot intervention studies with the interventions developed. The reading comprehension instruction being developed at our Toronto site will be implemented on intelligent tutoring platforms developed by Dr. Graesser and his team in Memphis. Many theoretical and practical questions will be addressed in this work, such as Is there an upper limit in terms of the levels of reading fluency that can be achieved with literacy instruction in adulthood? What individual difference factors are associated with positive outcomes following adult literacy intervention?  How can interventions be tailored to better address the needs of a heterogeneous population of adult learners and maximize the time they spend on literacy learning activities?  How can opportunities for literacy practice be built into their time away from the classroom and the demands of busy adult lives?  What role can web-based tutoring technologies play in developing deeper reading comprehension skills in adult learners?

External Funding

  • Institute of Education Sciences—National Research and Development Center Grant (current)
  • The Manton Foundation (current) (subcontracted site to Yale University)
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (current)
  • Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at CHEO (past)
  • National Institute of Mental Health (past)
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (past)


  • Member, National Academy of Sciences: Learning Sciences—Adolescent and Adult Literacy Panel, 2009-2011.
  • Member, Board of Directors, International Dyslexia Association, 2004 - 2009
  • Member, Scientific Development Board, The Haan Foundation for Children, 2001-present.
  • Shannon Award for Innovative Research; shared with Drs. Maryanne Wolf and Robin Morris, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 1995.


Frijters, J. C., Lovett, MW, Sevcik, R. A., & Morris, R. D. Four methods of identifying responders to a multiple component reading intervention for struggling middle school readers. Reading and Writing. In press. doi: 10.1007/s11145-012-9418-z

Tran, C., Gagnon, F., Wigg, K. G., Feng, Y., Gomez, L., Cate-Carter, T. D., . . . Barr, C. L. A family-based association analysis and meta-analysis of the reading disabilities candidate gene DYX1C1. American Journal of Medical Genetics (Neuropsychiatric Genetics), 2013, 162(2), 146-156. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32123

Lovett, MW., Barron, R.W., & Frijters, J.C.  Word identification difficulties in children and adolescents with reading disabilities:  Intervention research findings. In H.L. Swanson, K. Harris, & S. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of Learning Disabilities (2nd ed.) (pp. 329-359). New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2013.

Morris RD, Lovett MW, Wolf M, Sevcik RA, Steinbach KA, Frijters JC, Shapiro M. Multiple-component remediation for developmental reading disabilities: IQ, socioeconomic status, and race as factors in remedial outcome.  Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2012, 45(2), 99-127.

Lovett MW
, Lacerenza L, De Palma M, Frijters JC. Evaluating the efficacy of remediation for struggling readers in high school. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 2012, 45(2), 151-169.

O’Brien BA, Wolf M, Lovett MW. A taxometric investigation of developmental dyslexia subtypes. Dyslexia, 2012, 18(1), 16-39.

O'Brien B, Wolf M, Miller L, Lovett MW, Morris RD. Orthographic processing efficiency in developmental dyslexia: an investigation of age and treatment factors at the sublexical level. Annals of Dyslexia, 2011, 1-25.

Frijters JC, Lovett MW, Steinbach KA, Wolf M, Sevcik RA, Morris R. Neurocognitive predictors of reading outcomes for children with reading disabilities.  Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2011, 44(2), 150-166.

Elbert A, Lovett MW, Cate-Carter T, Pitch A, Kerr EN, Barr CL. Genetic variation in the KIAA0319 5’ region as a possible contributor to dyslexia. Behavior Genetics, 2011, 41(1), 77-89. Doi 10.1007/s10519-10010-19434-10511.

Lovett MW, Steinbach KA, Goudey J. The importance of multiple-component remediation for children and adolescents with reading disabilities.  HelpLetter:  Emerging Trends in Autism, Learning Disabilities and ADHD (p.3). Los Angeles, CA: The Help Group, UCLA, 2011.

Lovett MW, Steinbach KA, De Palma M, Temple M. Teaching struggling readers foundational reading skills. Better: Evidence-Based Education, University of York and Johns Hopkins University, 2011.

Wise JC, Sevcik RA, Morris RD, Lovett MW, Wolf M, Kuhn MR, Meisinger B, Schwanenflugel PJ. The relationsip between different measures of oral reading fluency and reading comprehension in second grade students who evidence different oral reading fluency difficulties. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 2010, 40, 340-348.

Couto JM, Livne-Bar I, Huang, K, Xu Z, Cate-Carter T, Feng Y, Wigg K, Humphries T, Tannock R, Kerr EN, Lovett MW, Bremner R, Barr CL. Association of reading disabilities with regions marked by acetylated H3 histones in KIAA0319. American Journal of Medical Genetics (Neuropsychiatric Genetics), 2010, Mar 5, 153B, 447-462.

Wolf M, Barzillai M, Gottwald S, Miller L, Spencer K, Norton E, Lovett MW, Morris RD. The RAVE-O intervention: connecting neuroscience to the classroom. Mind, Brain, and Education, 2009, 3, 84-93.

Cohen EA, Sevcik RA, Wolf M, Lovett MW, Morris RD. Integrating the PHAST and RAVE-O programs for struggling readers. In M.R. Kuhn & P.J. Schwanenflugel (Eds.), Fluency in the Classroom (pp. 92-123). New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 2008.

Couto JM, Gomez L, Wigg K, Cate-Carter T, Archibald J, Anderson B, Tannock R, Kerr EN, Lovett MW, Humphries T, Barr CL. The KIAA0319-Like (KIAA0319L) gene on chromosome 1p34 as a candidate for reading disabilities. Journal of Neurogenetics, 2008, 22(4), 295-313.

Wise JC, Pae HK, Wolfe CB, Sevcik RA, Morris RD, Lovett MW, Wolf M. Phonological awareness and rapid naming skills of children with reading disabilities and children with reading disabilities who are at risk for mathematics difficulties. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 2008, 23(3), 125-136.

Lovett MW, De Palma M, Frijters JC, Steinbach KA, Temple M, Benson NJ, Lacerenza L. Interventions for reading difficulties: a comparison of response to intervention by ELL and EFL struggling readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2008, 41(4), 333-352.

Lovett MW, Lacerenza L, De Palma M, Steinbach KA, Frijters JC. Preparing teachers to remediate reading disabilities in high school: what is needed for effective professional development? Teaching and Teacher Education, 2008, 24(4), 1083-1097.

Katzir T, Kim YS, Wolf M, Morris R, Lovett MW. The varieties of pathways to dysfluent reading: comparing subtypes of children with dyslexia at letter, word, and connected text levels of reading. Journal of Learning Disabilties, 2008, Jan-Feb;41(1):47-66.

Wise JC, Sevcik RA, Morris RD, Lovett MW, Wolf M. The growth of phonological awareness by children with reading disabilities: a result of semantic knowledge or knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences? Scientific Studies of Reading, 2007, 11(2), 151-164.

Most Highly Cited Earlier Refereed Papers

Lovett, MW., Borden, S.L., DeLuca, T., Lacerenza, L., Benson, N.J., & Brackstone, D. Treating the core deficits of developmental dyslexia: Evidence of transfer-of-learning following strategy- and phonologically-based reading training programs. Developmental Psychology, 1994, 30(6), 805-822.

Lovett MW, Lacerenza L, Borden SL, Frijters JC, Steinbach KA, De Palma M. Components of effective remediation for developmental reading disability: combining phonological and strategy-based instruction to improve outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 2000, 92, 263-283.

Lovett, MW, Lacerenza L, Borden SB. Putting struggling readers on the PHAST track: a program to integrate phonological and strategy-based remedial reading instruction and maximize outcomes. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2000, 33(5), 458-476.

Lovett MW, Steinbach KA, Frijters JC. Remediating the core deficits of developmental reading disability: a double deficit perspective. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2000, 33(4), 334-358.