News

June 19th, 2017

Early literacy study to improve diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities among Hebrew and Arabic speakers

Dedicated to enabling all children to reach their full potential, the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities is currently pioneering a comprehensive study on early literacy in Hebrew and Arabic languages. Research results are being used to develop cutting-edge interventions that will provide all children with a head start in school.

“A new large-scale early literacy research project is currently underway that will follow and study a total of 2,000 Hebrew and Arabic speaking children over a four-year period,” explains Prof. Asaid Khateb, Director of The Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center. “We hope it will shed light on the natural course of Hebrew and Arabic literacy development of typical, as well as at-risk learners, from kindergarten through second grade.” Outcomes of the study, led jointly byProf. Khateb and Prof. David Share of the Department of Learning Disabilities, are expected to have a significant impact on Israeli education and health care systems. “It will introduce validated assessment tools and performance norms for the early identification of at-risk learners, as well as tailored materials and educational content for teachers to help students with learning difficulties from diverse language backgrounds,” adds Prof. Khateb.

Arabic is the fourth most prevalent language in the world, spoken by nearly 400 million people, yet surprisingly, there have been virtually no comprehensive longitudinal studies conducted on the development of literacy skills in Arabic. Researchers at the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center pioneered the development of the first computerized diagnostic and remedial tools specifically adapted for Arabic speakers.

New insights into the Semitic languages Hebrew and Arabic, with their unique linguistic structures, also promise to contribute to our understanding of early childhood learning processes and of the conditions leading to literacy and numeracy difficulties that, until now, have focused almost exclusively on speakers of English and other European languages.

Established with the generosity of Mrs. Lily Safra and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation in 2008  at the University of Haifa, the Center has evolved to become a world-renowned research, training and teaching  center. Mrs. Lily Safra and her late husband, Edmond J. Safra (z”l), have been longstanding friends of the University and have generously supported research in the biological sciences.

The University honored Mrs. Lily Safra with an Honorary Doctorate in 2009 for her charitable activities supporting projects related to education, science and medicine, culture and humanitarian relief in Israel and around the world.

Since its conception ten years ago by founding visionary Prof. Zvia Breznitz (z”l), the Center has trained more than 1,000 teachers and led to the development of scores of training programs implemented in schools serving Arabic-speaking communities throughout Israel. The Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities is a unique academic institute in Israel bringing together broad interdisciplinary expertise in the fields of early learning, skill acquisition, brain sciences and developmental disorders.


Edmond J. Safra Foundation
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