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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 and Medical Sciences

Graduate Faculty
School of Graduate Studies

Graduate Faculty
Applied Psychology and Human Development, OISE

Other Positions
Graduate Faculty of Psychology
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)

Empower ™ Reading Program

Dr. Lovett's profile on REACH


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 to the Graduate Faculty of Psychology at 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?

Honours and Awards

  • International Dyslexia Association (IDA):  The Samuel Torrey Orton Award, 2017.  IDA’s highest honor to recognize those who make a vital contribution to the scientific understanding of dyslexia.
  • OPA Award of Merit, Psychology in Education, Ontario Psychological Association, 2014.
  • IRA Albert J. Harris Research Award for “Evaluating the efficacy of remediation for struggling readers in high school”, JLD 2012; 45(2), 151-169, International Reading Association, 2014.
    Order of Mary Ward, Loretto Alumnae Association, 2013.

Consulting Editor

  • Annals of Dyslexia, 2004-present.
  • Journal of Learning Disabilities, 1996-present.

Professional Contributions

  • Board of Directors, Elected Member, Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, 2017-present.
  • Chair, Scientific Advisory Board, LD Hub Center (NICHD), Florida Center for Reading Research, Haskins Laboratories, Yale, and University of Connecticut, 2017-present.
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Global Literacy Project, Tufts University and MIT Media Lab. M Wolf and C Breazeal, PIs, 2015-present.
  • Review Committee, Clinician-Scientist Training Program Committee (CCHSCP and CSTP), The Hospital for Sick Children, 2005-present.
  • Scientific Advisory Board, The Haan Foundation for Children, 2001-present.
  • Chair, Ph.D. Examining Committees, University of Toronto, 2002-present.
  • Ph.D. Thesis Committees, OISE/UT, 2000-present.
  • Scientific Advisory Board, On Track project, Oddny Judith Solheim (PI), funded by the Norwegian Research Council, National Center for Reading Education and Research, University of Stavanger, Norway, 2012-2017.

Professional Memberships

  • International Dyslexia Association
  • Society for the Scientific Study of Reading
  • Canadian Psychological Association
  • The College of Psychologists of Ontario

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)


A complete list of Dr. Lovett's publications can be found on her REACH profile