Thomas Nicholson (Inducted 2010)

Curriculum Vitae: 

Biographical Statement


Contact details

Tom Nicholson, Distinguished Friend of Massey University

Phone: mobile +6421 1085 923

Email:t [dot] nicholsonatmassey [dot] ac [dot] nz ()

Google Scholar -

New publication (October 2018):


Tom Nicholson started his academic career at The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. In 1990, he moved to The University of Auckland where he held a personal research chair and was co-head of the School of Education before joining Massey University's Auckland campus from 2006 to 2018 as a Professor of Literacy Education in the Institute of Education. Since then he has kept a link with the University as a "distinguished friend", is currently helping some colleagues with publications and research on a volunteer basis, tutoring one of the University grounds staff who is unable to read, and doing occasional consulting work and conference presenting. He is married and lives in Auckland, likes walking, going to movies, contemporary art, and is presently learning to sketch.

He has authored and co-authored more than 170 publications including 24 books including: Reading acquisition processes (1994)

Solving reading problems (1997)

Learning to read -beyond phonics and whole language (1998)

At the cutting edge – the importance of phonemic awareness in learning to read and spell (2005)

Teaching text structure (2007)

Teaching reading vocabulary (2010)

Teaching reading comprehension (2012)

Dyslexia Decoded (2013)

Literacy in early childhood and primary education (2014)

New Zealand dyslexia handbook (2015 – dedicated to Prof Robert Calfee)

Writing with impact: Teaching students how to write with a plan and spell well (2018)


He has served on editorial boards of many journals including Q1 journals such as Reading and Writing, American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Literacy Research, and Reading Research Quarterly.


He taught in a range of areas including literacy difficulties, psychology of reading, language and literacy, human development, and research methods.


He supervised more than two dozen theses and dissertations.


He served ILA in the past as President of the Waikato Reading Association, as a member of the ILA publications committee, and as reviewer for The Reading Teacher and Reading Research Quarterly.


He directed an after-school University reading project with private sponsorship for ten years attended by many hundreds of pupils needing help with learning to read and spell.

Before academia:

After completing NSW high school examinations, he won a Commonwealth Scholarship and a Teachers College Scholarship to University. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and English at Sydney University and gained a Teacher's Certificate at Sydney Teachers College. He taught English and History at Bonnyrigg and Campbelltown High Schools in Sydney. During these teaching years, he completed a Master of Arts in History at Sydney University. After five years of teaching, he joined the Research and Planning section of the Department of Education of South Australia as a research officer. It was there he first became interested in the teaching of literacy and wrote a book, An Anatomy of Reading. After three years in Adelaide, he left to complete a Ph.D. in Reading and Language at The University of Minnesota. His supervisors were Profs David Pearson and Robert Dykstra. His dissertation won the International Literacy Association Outstanding Dissertation Award.

Research grants

Major grants were for research interventions targeting “at risk” children totalling over $700,000, mostly from private foundations, to improve literacy for Maori and Pacific children in low-SES areas. Other grants were for summer books programs to combat the summer slide. He shared a grant from the NZ Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to write an online book on dyslexia for the adult workplace.

Appointments, Keynote invitations, and Awards

He has been a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Cognitive Science at University of Texas, Austin under the mentorship of Prof Philip Gough and in the School of Education at Stanford with the late Prof Robert Calfee. In 1999, the NZ government appointed him to a Literacy Experts Group in 1999 and in 2010 to an Independent Advisory Group (IAG) to advise the Minister of Education on literacy issues. In 2010, he became an elected member of the Reading Hall of Fame. He won in 2002 an Onassis Foreigners Fellowship to study in Greece at the University of Thessaloniki. In 2012, he won a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Tasmania. In 2016, he spent time as a visiting professor at the Institute for Positive Psychology in Education (IPPE), Australian Catholic University in Sydney. In 2016, the British Dyslexia Association invited him to speak in Oxford, England. In 2018, the Education Department of South Australia invited him to speak at their Literacy Summit in Adelaide – a nostalgic return to the city where he first began his career in literacy research.