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Psychology professor honored for his research on reading (Released: 12/4/96)

by Sherry Fisher, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- A professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, whose research focuses on the process of reading, has been honored for his achievements by the world's largest federation of scientists.

Leonard Katz has been elected to the rank of Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Each year, the AAAS Council elects members whose "efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished."

Katz is being honored for "insightful programmatic research in developmental psycholinguistics and reading, especially for illuminating the relationship between orthography and phonology in visual word recognition."

Katz will be honored on Feb. 15, at the association's annual meeting.

Katz, at UConn since 1965, conducts research on the cognitive processes involved in reading. A particular approach he has used is to study how the reading process differs from language to language, or from one writing system to another.

Although the process of reading is automatic to a skilled reader, reading a word is actually a highly complex skill involving many processes, Katz said. It a takes a child years to acquire and perfect the skill.

Katz's research has included experiments in reading English, French, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, Russian and Hebrew.

"Each of these has some characteristic that makes reading in that language an interesting contrast to the others," Katz said. "For example, Hebrew is written without the vowel sounds; Serbo-Croatian is written in two different alphabets; Turkish has a simple one-to-one letter-sound correspondence, unlike English, in which most letters have more than one possible pronunciation."

Katz had to do his research overseas because it requires readers who are "uncontaminated" by any other language than their native one.

Katz, who conducts research for Haskins Laboratories and Yale Medical School, is a Fellow of the American Psychological Society. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1963 and was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University from 1963 to 1965.