Thomas Nicholson (Inducted 2010)

Curriculum Vitae: 

Biographical Statement

 Contact details

Tom Nicholson, Professor Emeritus, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

Phone - mobile +6421 1085 923

Email - t [dot] nicholsonatmassey [dot] ac [dot] nz or contactattomnicholson [dot] me

Google Scholar -

New publication (released in October 2018):

Short academic bio

I started my University career at The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand after gaining my doctorate at The University of Minnesota. In 1990, I won an Associate Professor position at The University of Auckland and in 2000, gained a personal chair in Education. From 2000-2003, I was co-head of the School of Education at The University of Auckland. In 2006, Massey University invited me to join them as a Professor of Literacy Education and I remained in that role until April 2018. In April 2019, I gained the title of Professor Emeritus. Since finishing full time teaching, I have tried to keep writing and helping some of my colleagues and ex-students with writing up their research. In the last year, I have done some voluntary work as an adult literacy tutor to help one of the University grounds staff who had reading difficulties. I would like to reinvent myself as a freelance writer but we will see. I am happily married, live in an old terrace house in Auckland, like walking, movies, and contemporary art. At the end of 2018 I took up a first/new hobby of urban sketching which is a lot of fun.


I have authored or co-authored more than 170 publications including 24 books including:

Reading acquisition processes (1994)

Solving reading problems (1991, 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 (1994, 1999, 2005)

Teaching text structures: A key to nonfiction reading success (2007)

Teaching reading vocabulary (2010)

Teaching reading comprehension (2001, 2012)

Dyslexia Decoded (2013)

Literacy in early childhood and primary education (2014)

New Zealand dyslexia handbook (2015 – dedicated to Prof Robert Calfee who died in 2014)

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

Other academic things

I have 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.

I have taught or co-taught in a range of areas including the reading process, literacy difficulties, psychology of reading, language, literacy and cognition, developmental psychology, human development, and research methods.

I have supervised more than two dozen theses and dissertations.

I 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.

University Reading Clinic

For ten years, I directed on a voluntary basis an after-school University reading project with private sponsorship attended by many hundreds of pupils needing help with learning to read and spell. For five years, during summer semester I co-taught at a local elementary school a University undergraduate course for teachers and trainee teachers where children with reading difficulties received daily lessons from our students. 

Before academia:

After completing NSW high school examinations, I won a Commonwealth Scholarship and a Teachers College Scholarship to University. I completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and English at Sydney University and gained a Teacher's Certificate at Sydney Teachers College. I taught English and History at Bonnyrigg and Campbelltown High Schools in Sydney. During these teaching years, I completed during part time study a Master of Arts in History at Sydney University. After five years of teaching, I joined the Research and Planning section of the Department of Education of South Australia as a research officer. It was there I first became interested in the teaching of literacy and wrote a book, An Anatomy of Reading. After three years in Adelaide, I left to complete a Ph.D. in Reading and Language at The University of Minnesota. My supervisors were Profs David Pearson and Robert Dykstra. My 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 and to fund the University after-school reading program.

Appointments, Keynote invitations, and Awards

Sabbatical leave enabled me to be a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Cognitive Science at University of Texas, Austin with Philip Gough and a visiting scholar at the School of Education at Stanford with Bob Calfee, and six weeks at the Australian Centre for Educational Research (ACER). I was a member of a Literacy Experts Group  appointed by the governemnt to advise on reading - our first recommendation was to increase the focus on teaching children how to decipher words. I was on another government advisory group on the controversial introduiction of national standards in reading, writing, and mathematics.  I was fortunate to be awarded a one-year sabbatical to take up Onassis Foreigners Fellowship to study in Greece at the University of Thessaloniki. I was granted a sabbatical to take up a Visiting Fellowship at the University of Tasmania. In 2016, again on sabattical leave, I spent a month as a visiting professor collaborting with Rhonda Craven at the Institute for Positive Psychology in Education (IPPE), Australian Catholic University in Sydney followed by six weeks in England - to give a keynote talk on phonological difficulties at the British Dyslexia Association conference in Oxford, England, to work a further three weeks in the University library at St John’s College, and after that to spend time in research collaboration  in the Faculty of Education with Victor van Daal at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk.

Recent work

In February 2019, I was an invited speaker at a Literacy Summit in Adelaide, funded by the Education Department of South Australia, speaking about reading comprhenesion in the junior secondary school which gave me the opportunity to return to the city where I started as a fledgling researcher.

In June 2019, I helped to edit a special issue on teaching writing for Learning Difficulties Australia, which is freely available at