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Dr. Becky Chen - Multilingualism and Literacy Lab
Dr. Becky Chen - Multilingualism and Literacy Lab

Note: Member names are listed alphabetically.


Team Members Emeritus




From 2009 to 2015 under Dr. Chen’s supervision, I examined language and literacy development in bilingual students and ELLs (English language learners) with language characteristics such as L1-L2 distance and language learning environment. Within the French immersion educational setting, I compared the development of English and French phonological awareness, word reading, vocabulary, and reading comprehension between ELLs and native English speakers across early grades. I also compared the effect of first language background (Spanish vs. Chinese) on English vocabulary and literacy skills between Spanish-English bilingual adolescents and Chinese-English bilingual adolescents. Furthermore, in a cross-cultural design, I researched Chinese L1 vocabulary and literacy development in young adults in Canada relative to young adults in China. 



My name is Dr. Anna Garito-Cassar and I’m a single mother of twin girls.  I recently graduated from the Flex-time Ph.D. program from the OISE, University of Toronto.  My area of study explored the English word reading profiles of Chinese dyslexic and typically developing children in grades four to six in Hong Kong elementary schools.  A mixed methods design was used to compare the English word reading abilities, phonological processing, word reading strategies, home environment, and goal orientations of the two groups. As a special education teacher for 17 years, I strongly believed a mixed method research design was appropriate for my study because I was able to use a battery of standardized tests, a demographic questionnaire, a goal orientation questionnaire, a read-aloud activity and an interview regarding students’ experiences of learning English.  In doing so, I was able to truly understand not only areas of strengths and difficulties for students but students’ perspectives on learning English and classroom practices.

During my Ph.D. studies I was fortunate to work at Manulife Centre for Children with Specific Learning Disabilities located at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  As a lecturer, I worked with Chinese educators who taught English. The focus of the course was to teach Chinese educators how to develop engaging word reading programs for students with dyslexia.  I had a wonderful opportunity of working with both teachers and Chinese students with dyslexia.  The experience I obtained on my various trips added to my understanding of the Hong Kong educational context and teaching practices.  I am very thankful and blessed to have had this opportunity.

Currently, I am a full-time elementary Vice Principal at the DPCDSB.  I work at two diverse schools with a population of approximately 420 students in each.  In my capacity as a Vice Principal, I collaborate with various teachers on how to conduct class inquiry in order to understand students learning needs. In addition, I meet with the Student Achievement Officers from the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, board consultants and researchers to continue to develop an understanding of who is the learner and best teaching practices.  As a team we look at the results from EQAO, in class assessments and observations to make decisions about next steps.  Therefore, my eight years in the flex-time Ph.D. program gave me the opportunity to develop skills in areas such as analytical thinking, objectivity, how to give and receive constructive feedback, collaboration, speaking and listening skills.

CHUNG, Sheila 


Sheila is in her final year of her doctoral studies in Developmental Psychology and Education. Her dissertation focuses on identifying predictors of word reading achievement among emerging bilingual children in French immersion. She also has extensive experience in providing language and literacy interventions to children and adolescents from diverse linguistic, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Currently, she is working on a theoretical framework to explain how multilinguals develop language and literacy skills in two (or more) languages.





Nadia completed her doctoral studies in the Developmental Psychology and Education program. She received her Master's degree in Developmental Psychology from Carleton University. For her dissertation, she investigated the associations between oral language and poor reading comprehension for children learning in a second language. 

Nadia is currently working as a school board researcher at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.


KOH, Poh Wee

Poh Wee

Poh Wee completed her doctoral studies in the Developmental Psychology and Education program. She attended the University of Bristol and National University of Singapore prior to coming to OISE. Her research interests include the cognitive and psycholinguistic processes involved in reading, with a focus on bilingual children whose first- and second-languages are typologically different. Supported by the Ontario Graduate Scholarship, her research examined within- and cross-language contributions of lexical knowledge to reading comprehension among Mandarin-English bilingual children. 

Poh Wee is currently a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Rick Wagner's laboratory at Florida State University where she examines reading and learning disabilities in different orthographies.


LEE, Kathleen


Kathleen is a fourth year doctoral candidate in the School and Clinical Child Psychology Program. She received her MA in the SCCP program from OISE-UT in 2013. Her masters' research broadly examined the development and cross-language transfer of reading fluency among primary school students enrolled in French Immersion programs.

Her dissertation research expands on this work and explores the relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension both within and between the English and French languages. Further, her research focuses on the development of a dynamic assessment measure that can be used to better identify at-risk readers among French Immersion students. Her doctoral research is currently supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.



LOK, Katie


In the 7 years that I was involved in Dr. Chen’s lab, I had the opportunity to participate in several large scale research projects, through which I explored many questions on bilingual children’s language and reading development. Since graduating from OISE, I have been working as a clinical psychologist in the Child and Youth Mental Health Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. My work mainly focuses on providing psychological assessments and treatments to children, adolescents, and their families.  In addition, I provide consultation and supervision to other mental health professionals within a multidisciplinary team.

Although my current work does not involve conducting research directly, psychological research certainly permeates through and informs my work.  At the hospital, we emphasize on providing evidence-based treatments to our young clients and their family. The ability to critically evaluate research therefore assists me in identifying the most effective treatment(s) for my clients’ mental health problems. In conducting psychological assessments, my knowledge in children’s reading development helps me generate and test hypotheses of the various factors that may contribute to a child’s difficulties in reading.

Psychological research continues to play an important role in my work. It is therefore my hope that in the near future, I will be able to develop research studies in my work setting to contribute new knowledge in the field of psychology.





Adrian Pasquarella is a PhD graduate from the Developmental Psychology and Education program at OISE, and worked extensively in the Multilingualism and Literacy Lab from 2009-2013. Adrian is currently an assistant professor of literacy education in the School of Education at the University of Delaware. He teaches courses related to literacy instruction, specifically for English Language Learners (ELLs). His research areas include language and literacy acquisition and development in multi-lingual populations, understanding universal and language specific aspects of reading comprehension, cross-language transfer, and developing research-based educational programs to improve language and literacy in diverse groups of ELL children and adolescents. His research has been published in Journal of Education Psychology, Scientific Studies of Reading, Developmental Psychology, Reading Research Quarterly, Reading and Writing, Journal of Research in Reading, and Topics in Language Disorders




Abir is a student of the Developmental Psychology & Education program. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science (Honours) degree from McMaster University. Here, she developed a strong interest in the fields of evidence based research, youth wellbeing and pedagogy. Currently, she is investigating the literacy, language development and wellbeing of Syrian refugee families in Toronto. This project will also carry out a comparison between the lives of refugee families living in Toronto with those living in Munich, Germany





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