English Learners and Emergent Bilingual Students:
What Do We Know and What Can We Learn?

LAS VEGAS | MARCH 25, 2023

We are all better when we work together.

On Saturday, March 25th, 2023, The Reading League hosted its first-ever Summit. Experts, researchers, practitioners, and neuroscientists convened to discuss important topics related to English Learners/Emergent Bilinguals (EL/EBs). Participants began the day with feelings ranging from uncertainty to excitement as they gathered in a ballroom at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Opening speakers set the tone of the day by developing connection and understanding, and by stating positive aspirations. 

Throughout the day, panel moderators and participants expertly described their work related to policy, neuroscience, foundational skills, and language development. The conversations were collaborative, grounded in alignment and agreements, and helped to push participants to consider how the knowledge base referred to as the science of reading can support the needs of EL/EBs. Experts with diverse perspectives shared their knowledge and trust was borne out of an important, collective mission: literacy for all.

TRL’s first Summit was a huge success that provided a great foundation for continued collaborative conversations. For those who were unable to attend, search #TRLSummit2023 to scroll through participants’ reactions as well as the unique graphic recordings of the conversations that occurred. 

Stay tuned for additional TRL resources to support these continued conversations as well as a report on the Summit by Dr. Tanji Reed Marshall. These resources will be announced later this spring via social media, so follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Thank you to everyone who attended and participated in this historic event! We couldn’t have done it without you!


Opening Words

Panel One

Panel Two

Panel Three

Panel Four


Becky Sullivan

Becky Sullivan

Session One:
Policy to Effectively Support All Learners

Ken Pugh

Dr. Kenneth Pugh

Session Two:
The Neuroscience of Language and Literacy

Dr. Antonio Fierro

Dr. Antonio Fierro

Session Three:
Foundational Reading Skills Within a Comprehensive Literacy Program

Magaly Lavadenz

Dr. Magaly Lavadenz

Session Four:
Developing Oral Language, Vocabulary, and Background Knowledge


Montserrat Garibay

Montserrat Garibay

Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director, The Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA)

Kari Kurto

Kari Kurto

National Science of Reading Project Director, The Reading League

Martha Hernandez

Martha Hernandez

Executive Director, Californians Together

Tracy Weeden

Dr. Tracy Weeden

President and CEO, Neuhaus Education Center

View the Summit 2023 agenda and explore the interactive experience from the historic day.


Policy to Effectively Support All Learners

Becky Sullivan, Director, K-12 English Language Arts, Sacramento County Office of Education
Dr. Linda Cavazos, Executive Director, ELLAS Consulting
Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, Strategic Advisor, Californians Together
Dr. José Viana, Senior Education Advisor, Lexia Learning

Panel Abstract: With many states enacting recent policies aimed at improving literacy outcomes, this panel will consider the extent to which such policy has included research-based guidelines for Emergent Bilingual/English Learners, students with dialectical variations, and other language differences. Moderated by Becky Sullivan, our panelists will share potential insights for future legislative efforts and implementation practices.

The Neuroscience of Language and Literacy

Dr. Kenneth Pugh, President and Director, Haskins Laboratories
Dr. Marilu Gorno-Tempini, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, University of California San Francisco
Dr. Ioulia Kovelman, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan
Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Director, UCLA Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice
Dr. Brianna L. Yamasaki, Assistant Professor for the Department of Psychology, Emory University

Panel Abstract: This session will engage cognitive and neuroscientists in a discussion of the current research on multilingualism and literacy development. Moderated by Dr. Kenneth Pugh, our panelists will share instructional implications based on these findings and address possible next steps in research.

Foundational Reading Skills Within a Comprehensive Literacy Program

Dr. Antonio Fierro, Chief Academic Advisor, Tools4Reading
Dr. Claude Goldenberg, Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Education, Emeritus, Stanford University
Dr. Sylvia Linan-Thompson, Associate Professor, College of Education, Special Education, University of Oregon
Dr. Martha Martinez, Director of Research and Evaluation, SEAL (Sobrato Early Academic Language)

Panel Abstract: This session will explore the components of a comprehensive literacy program as it relates to English Learners/Emergent Bilinguals (EL/EBs). Moderated by Dr. Antonio Fierro, our panelists will explore what the research says about foundational skills instruction and pedagogical implications for teaching literacy skills in a linguistically diverse classroom.

Developing Oral Language, Vocabulary, and Background Knowledge

Dr. Magaly Lavadenz, Distinguished Professor of English Learner Policy, Research, and Practice, Loyola Marymount University
Mitchell Brookins, Educational Consultant, Teacher PRO
Dr. Amy Elleman, Director, Literacy Studies Ph.D. Program, Middle Tennessee State University
Patricia Pate, Early Learning Program Manager, SEAL (Sobrato Early Academic Language)

Panel Abstract: Proficient reading and writing skills are supported by strong language comprehension skills and prior content knowledge. Moderated by Magaly Lavadenz, this panel will discuss the research base, benefits, and implications of developing oral language skills in more than one language and linking new learning to knowledge acquired in a student’s home language.


Historically, there has been a disconnect between literacy experts within the fields of science of reading and English Learners / Emergent Bilinguals. Conflicting views often impact educational policy and lead to confusion in the field, which may in turn impact students. Beginning in March 2022, The Reading League and allied science of reading community members have engaged in a series of productive and groundbreaking conversations with the National Committee on Excellence in Literacy (NCEL) and its allied community members. These conversations were intended as opportunities to listen to understand and find areas of alignment as well as areas where more conversation is required.


Aprendo Leyendo
Curriculum Associates
95 Percent Group
PAF Reading Program
Reading Horizons
Wilson Language Training
The Reading League

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