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Janet Gaffney


Although retired, Professor García continues to collaborate with teachers and schools and conduct and publish research on k-8 students’ literacy development, instruction, and assessment with a specific focus on bilingual students. Current highlights of her career include being inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame in December 2019, and working with WestEd on the revision of the NAEP Reading Framework for 2025. She currently is co-authoring a book with Dr. Kay Stahl on the reading comprehension instruction of students in grades 3-5. Previously, they co-authored a book on the reading comprehension instruction of preK-grade 2 students. Past highlights include conducting research on the literacy development, instruction, and assessment of culturally and linguistically diverse students at the Center for the Study of Reading; serving as Associate Editor for the American Educational Research Journal; receiving over $3.75 million in federal grants to conduct research and train bilingual teachers and leaders in teacher education and research; providing expert testimony to the U.S. Senate Staff Committee on Education about bilingual children’s reading; and serving on the RAND Reading Study Group on Skillful Reading, the National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth, and the English Language Learner Senior Advisory Team for Educational Testing Service. Since retiring, Professor García has been involved in the establishment and operation of a 90-10 Dual Language Program (Spanish-English) in the Urbana School District and a 50-50 Dual Language Program (Spanish-English) in the Champaign School District.

Key Professional Appointments

  • Professor Emerita, Special Education, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Research & Service

Professor García’s research focuses on the literacy development, instruction and assessment of students (preschool-grade 8) from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, with a specific focus on bilingual students. Between 1988-2013, she published 3 books, 27 book chapters, and 25 peer-reviewed journal articles. Since her retirement in 2013, she has published 1 book, 6 book chapters, and 7 peer reviewed journal articles.Two additional journal articles are under review. Highly cited journal articles include an article on the literacy assessment of Spanish-speaking bilingual students (García, 1991); an article on assessment and diversity (García & Pearson, 1994); two articles on the reading strategies of bilingual (Spanish-English) students) (Jiménez, García, & Pearson, 1995, 1996); and an article on the translanguaging reading practices of bilingual fourth graders (García & Godina, 2017). Key book chapters include a chapter on bilingual children’s reading published in the Handbook of Reading Research; a chapter on the reading comprehension and instruction of English learners in a co-edited book by Anne Sweet and Catherine Snow; and two chapters on the language and literacy assessment of language minority students commissioned by the National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth.


Donnan, L., Gaffney, J. S., & Bruce, T. (2023). Voices from the Margins: Aotearoa/New Zealand Young Carers Reflect on Their Experiences. International journal of environmental research and public health, 20(15), Article 6511.  link >

Li, A. M. C., Gaffney, J. S., Sansom, A. N., & Matapo, J. (2023). Re-defining silence in unvoiced dialogues in storying-play: The sound of affects. Journal of Childhood, Education and Society, 4(1), 41-55.  link >

Pham, H., & Gaffney, J. S. (Accepted/In press). Unfinalizability: An exploration of a young child’s emergent identities through living stories. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.  link >

Si‘ilata, R. K., Jacobs, M. M., Gaffney, J. S., Aseta, M., & Hansell, K. (2023). Making Space for Young Children's Embodied Cultural Literacies and Heritage Languages with Dual Language Books. Reading Teacher, 77(1), 24-36.  link >

Xu, T. S., Zhang, L. J., & Gaffney, J. S. (2023). A multidimensional approach to assessing the effects of task complexity on L2 students’ argumentative writing. Assessing Writing, 55, Article 100690.  link >

Xu, T. S., Zhang, L. J., & Gaffney, J. S. (2022). EXAMINING THE RELATIVE EFFECTS OF TASK COMPLEXITY AND COGNITIVE DEMANDS ON STUDENTS' WRITING IN A SECOND LANGUAGE. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 44(2), 483-506.  link >

Gaffney, J. S., Ritchie, J., Skerrett, M., Smith, G. H., Mara, D., Macfarlane, A. H., & Sleeter, C. (2021). Imagining possible worlds with young children, families, and teachers: sustaining indigenous languages and family pedagogies. Kotuitui, 16(2), 234-249.  link >

Hart, S. M., Hill, M. F., & Gaffney, J. S. (2021). Timetabling a transition with dignity: Perspectives of young adults with significant support needs. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 46(3), 227-238.  link >

Li, A. M. C., Gaffney, J. S., Sansom, A. N., & Cheng, P. W. D. (2021). “Old newspapers from my home”: Storying children's environmental and cultural sustainability. Asia-Pacific Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education, 15(1), 29-52.  link >

Quigan, E. K., Gaffney, J. S., & Si’ilata, R. (2021). Ēhara tāku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini: the power of a collective. Kotuitui, 16(2), 283-306.  link >

White, A., Gaffney, J. S., & Hedges, H. (Accepted/In press). Toddlers as active, competent story weavers: Lexie’s story. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.  link >

Gaffney, J. S., & Jesson, R. (2019). We must know what they know (And so must they) for children to sustain learning and independence. In Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation (pp. 23-36). (Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation; Vol. 10). Emerald Group Publishing Ltd..  link >

Gaffney, J. S., & Rodgers, E. (2018). Scaffolding research: Taking stock at the four-decade mark. International Journal of Educational Research, 90, 175-176.  link >

Hart, S. M., Gaffney, J. S., & Hill, M. F. (2017). Critical reflections on emancipatory partnerships in transition research: discerning perspectives of New Zealand Students on the autism spectrum. Disability and Society, 32(6), 831-852.  link >

Easton, V., Gaffney, J. S., & Wardman, J. (2016). "I need to do better, but I don't know what to do": Primary teachers' experiences of talented young writers. Australasian Journal of Gifted Education, 25(2), 34-51.  link >

Ruppar, A. L., Gaffney, J. S., & Dymond, S. K. (2015). Influences on Teachers’ Decisions About Literacy for Secondary Students With Severe Disabilities. Exceptional Children, 81(2), 209-226.  link >

Wilkinson, I. A. G., & Gaffney, J. S. (2015). Literacy for schooling: Two-tiered scaffolding for learning and teaching. In Handbook of Educational Psychology: Third Edition (pp. 229-244). Taylor and Francis Inc..

Hedin, L. R., & Gaffney, J. S. (2013). Tutoring Sixth Graders Who Struggle with Reading: Illustrations Of Wood's Contingent Interventions. Reading Psychology, 34(3), 207-256.  link >

Chun, E. J., Hertzog, N. B., Gaffney, J. S., & Dymond, S. K. (2012). When Service Learning meets the Project Approach: Incorporating Service Learning in an early childhood program. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 10(3), 232-245.  link >

Mouzourou, C., Santos, R. M., & Gaffney, J. S. (2011). At home with disability: One family's three generations narrate autism. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 24(6), 693-715.  link >

Ruppar, A. L., & Gaffney, J. S. (2011). Individualized education program team decisions: A preliminary study of conversations, negotiations, and power. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 36(1-2), 11-22.  link >

Ruppar, A. L., Dymond, S. K., & Gaffney, J. S. (2011). Teachers' perspectives on literacy instruction for students with severe disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 36(3-4), 100-111.  link >

Jeong, J., Gaffney, J. S., & Choi, J. O. (2010). Availability and use of informational texts in second-, third-, and fourth-grade classrooms. Research in the Teaching of English, 44(4), 435-456.

March, E., & Gaffney, J. S. (2010). Relational Identities of Students, Families, and Educators: Shaping Educational Pathways. Remedial and Special Education, 31(1), 3-16.  link >

Wu, X., Anderson, R. C., Li, W., Wu, X., Li, H., Zhang, J., Zheng, Q., Zhu, J., Shu, H., Jiang, W., Chen, X., Wang, Q., Yin, L., He, Y., Packard, J., & Gaffney, J. S. (2009). Morphological awareness and Chinese children's literacy development: An intervention study. Scientific Studies of Reading, 13(1), 26-52.  link >

Gaffney, J. S., Ostrosky, M. M., & Hemmeter, M. L. (2008). Books as Natural Support for Young Children's Literacy Learning. YC Young Children, 63(4), 87-93.

Ostrosky, M. M., Gaffney, J. S., & Thomas, D. V. (2006). The interplay between literacy and relationships in early childhood settings. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 22(2), 173-191.  link >

Packard, J. L., Chen, X., Li, W., Wu, X., Gaffney, J. S., Li, H., & Anderson, R. C. (2006). Explicit instruction in orthographic structure and word morphology helps Chinese children learn to write characters. Reading and Writing, 19(5), 457-487.  link >

Anderson, R. C., Gaffney, J. S., Xinchun, W., Chiung-chu, W., Wenling, L., Hua, S., Nagy, W. E., & Xiaojie, M. (2002). Shared-Book Reading in China. In L. Wenling, J. S. Gaffney, & J. L. Packard (Eds.), Chinese Children’s Reading Acquisition (pp. 131-155). Springer.  link >

Gaffney, J. S., Methven, J. M., & Bagdasarian, S. (2002). Assisting older students to read expositorytext in a tutorial setting: A case for a high-impact intervention. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 18(2), 119-150.  link >

Li, W., Gaffney, J. S., & Packard, J. L. (Eds.) (2002). Chinese Children’s Reading Acquisition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Issues. Kluwer Academic Publishers.  link >

Corso, L., Funk, S., & Gaffney, J. S. (2001). Teaching ideas: An educational evening out. Reading Teacher, 55(4), 326-332.

Gaffney, J. S., & Anderson, R. C. (2000). Trends in Reading Research in the United States: Changing Intellectual Currents Over Three Decades. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Research (Vol. 3, pp. 53-74). Routledge.  link >

Stephens, D., Boldt, G., Clark, C., Gaffney, J. S., Shelton, J., Story, J., & Weinzierl, J. (2000). Learning (about learning) from four teachers. Research in the Teaching of English, 34(4), 532-562.

Wang, C. C., & Gaffney, J. S. (1998). First graders' use of analogy in word reading. Journal of Literacy Research, 30(3), 389-403.  link >

Amlund, J. T., Gaffney, J., & Kulhavy, R. W. (1985). Map feature content and text recall of good and poor readers. Journal of Literacy Research, 17(4), 317-330.  link >

Mastropieri, M. A., Scruggs, T. E., Levin, J. R., Gaffney, J., & Mcloone, B. (1985). Mnemonic Vocabulary Instruction for Learning Disabled Students. Learning Disability Quarterly, 8(1), 57-63.  link >


While at the University of Illinois, Professor García taught courses in literacy, bilingual education, ESL education, and qualitative research methods. She graduated 20 Ph.D. students and 2 Ed.D. students. She also worked with over 57 M.Ed or Master's Certification students. Professor García currently is serving on two other doctoral students' dissertation committees. Three of her former students are full professors at Vanderbilt University, the University of South Carolina, and Illinois State University. Post retirement, Professor García continues to teach through professional staff development opportunities nationwide and in local schools.


SPED 199: Undergraduate Open Seminar (SPED 199) Topics will vary. See course schedule.

SPED 391: Thesis (SPED 391) Prerequisite: Senior standing.

SPED 395: Independent Study (SPED 395) Study of problems not considered in other courses; designed for students who excel in self-direction and intellectual curiosity.

SPED 599: Thesis Research (SPED 599) Individual direction of research and thesis writing.