The Reading League Responds to CABE Webinar That Attempted to Discredit the Science of Reading

Noted neurologist Dehaene: Content ‘betrays a dramatic lack of knowledge of the scientific literature’

SYRACUSE, NY, May 13, 2024 – The Reading League (TRL), a nonprofit organization leading the advancement of evidence-aligned reading instruction, has responded to a recent webinar hosted by the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE).

The webinar, titled “Debunking SoR Neuroscience Claims,” targeted and spread false information to educators and education professionals, discrediting evidence derived from the science of reading.

In CABE’s April 24 webinar, their speaker, Dr. Steven Strauss, made several misleading claims in an attempt to undermine research by neuroscientists, including world-renowned neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene. Dr. Dehaene’s award-winning research investigates the neural bases of human cognitive functions such as reading, calculation, and language. As a member of nine academies, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, he is widely recognized for his contributions to neuroscience. He is also the only person outside U.S. academia to receive the prestigious Atkinson Prize.

One of the claims made during the webinar attempted to debunk the use of fMRI technology to study reading. Dr. Strauss posited that the principles and discoveries within the science of reading gained from the use of fMRI “are limited to taking pictures of subjects reading very short pieces of language.

In response to this claim, Dr. Dehaene emphasized that hundreds of brain-imaging studies have utilized sentences and texts as stimuli during fMRI. These studies have provided valuable evidence regarding how brain circuits form and function regardless of what is being read.

Dr. Dehaene wrote the following response to the CABE webinar:

“What [the speaker] says is so utterly false that it betrays a dramatic lack of knowledge of the scientific literature…for more than 20 years, we and many other researchers have routinely used sentences and texts as stimuli during functional MRI, both written and spoken…shown how written and spoken texts activate extremely similar brain circuits for meaning and used fMRI to dissect the brain circuits for reading at various levels, from single word processing to syntactic and semantic integration.”

The Reading League supports Dr. Dehaene’s response, which reflects decades of research on how monolingual and multilingual children learn to read. TRL also stands by its mission to advance scientific evidence so that educators and stakeholders understand how to meet the unique needs of EL/EB students, as described on the English Learners/Emergent Bilinguals and the Science of Reading page of The Reading League Compass. TRL calls for continued collegial conversations grounded in truth and evidence.

TRL will continue to work collaboratively with communities of experts who have dedicated themselves to conducting research and uplifting evidence to address pervasive and persistent disinformation because it has no place in education.

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