Reading in Preterm and Full Term Children

Who is Eligible: Children aged 5 years and 10 months to 6 years and 8 months. Children must be English speakers, or have had at least 2 years in an English-speaking school or home.

Principal Investigator: Heidi Feldman, MD, PhD

Research Coordinator: Vanessa Kovachy / Email: / Phone: (650) 498-7690


We are conducting a longitudinal research study that uses psychological testing and new brain imaging technology to see how reading skills develop in preterm and full term children.

We examine many reading skills, such as single word reading and comprehension. We want to know if children born preterm have similar skills and follow similar paths as children born full term. We are also interested in the brain structures that are associated with reading skill in both the preterm and full term groups.  We begin by looking at children at age 6, when reading skills are starting to emerge. We test the children and obtain an MRI. We re-test the children at age 7.  We see them for the last time at age 8 when we repeat the testing and the MRI scan.

We want to be able to identify children at greatest risk for persistent reading difficulties. We hope our research will contribute knowledge to create effective interventions to help or prevent reading problems among children.


  1. We will talk to you by telephone to determine if your child is eligible for the study.
  2. At age 6 and 8, we will conduct 2 or 3 testing sessions, each lasting less than 2 and 1/2 hours. At age 7, one testing session lasting less than 2 hours.
  3. The first sessions at each age evaluate your child’s reading, language, and thinking skills.  If your child needs more time, then a second session will be scheduled.
  4. The second or third session will be used to obtain magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs). MRIs are only collected at age 6 and 8.


Who is running the studies?   More 

Dr. Heidi M. Feldman MD PhD, the principle investigator of the study, is the Medical Director of the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Service at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital and the Section Chief of the Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine at Stanford. Her team includes trained research assistants and neuroscientists to collect and analyze data.


What are the costs or possible risks involved in participation?  More 

There are no costs to your child. Our methods are completely safe for your child, and you and your child’s information is kept confidential.


What are the benefits of participating?  More 

  1. We will compensate your child $10 for each testing session.  We compensate your child $50 for the MRI scan session at age 6 years, and $80 for the MRI scan session at age 8 years.
  2. We may identify language, reading, or learning problems that you and your child are unaware of.  If we do, we will recommend services or approaches to help your child
  3. You may be eligible for an intervention that could help improve your child’s reading ability and scores.


What is an MRI and what does the MRI Scan involve?  More 

An MRI machine uses a strong magnet and radiofrequency magnetic fields to make images of the child’s brain. The scan does not expose your child to x-rays or radiation. Children are awake the entire time (unless they are sleepy and choose to nap!)

Before the scan, children are given information about what the scan is like. They are told that the scanner is loud, but they are given protective earplugs so that the volume of the noise is reduced to a repetitive tapping noise.

During the scan, children watch a movie of their choice while we complete the scan. There is always someone in the room with the child during the scan. The child is given a ball that they can squeeze if s/he is unable to continue the scan. In between acquisitions, the technician will check in with the child to make sure if everything is okay. At any point, if the child wants to end, we will cease the scan.

After the scan, children are reunited with their parents and given a picture of their brain in their favorite color!


I have friends who also have children who may be eligible. Could they also be participants in this study?  More 

Yes! Please feel free to share this brochure and our contact information with anyone who may also be interested in participating.