About Jeanne S. Chall

Professor Jeanne S. Chall (1921-1999) was a leading expert in reading research and instruction and a psychologist, teacher, writer and professor emerita at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).

While at HGSE, Chall founded the Harvard Reading Laboratory in 1966, directing it until her retirement in 1991. Today, the reading lab in Larsen Hall bears her name. She served on numerous scholarly organizations, editorial boards, policymaking committees, and state and national commissions, including being called upon by a succession of U.S. presidents and secretaries of education to bring her wisdom to national literacy efforts. She also served on the board of directors of the International Reading Association (1961-1964) and on the National Academy of Education’s Commission on Reading; her work on the Commission resulted in the report, Becoming a Nation of Readers (1985).

Throughout her career she emphasized the importance of direct, systematic instruction in reading. She was deeply committed to teaching; the importance of children’s successful reading acquisition; the need to address failing readers; the power of research to answer practical questions; and the merit of understanding the historical background of research questions.

Chall was engaged in both research and practice, often at the same time. For more than fifty years she taught students of all ages, including remedial ones, and advised schools. She was a consultant for children’s encyclopedias, an educational comic book, educational software and educational television, including the children’s literacy programs Sesame Street, The Electric Company and Between the Lions. Although she formally retired in 1991, she continued to conduct and publish research and mentor reading professionals well into her retirement.

At her retirement, Chall donated her personal collection of books to the Monroe C. Gutman Library at HGSE. Chall’s gift, called the Jeanne S. Chall Collection on the Teaching of Reading, is, in her own words, “an expression of my love for the school.”