Hélène Deacon


Email: Helene.Deacon@dal.ca
Phone: (902) 494-2538
Fax: (902) 494-6585
Mailing Address: 
Dalhousie University Life Sciences Centre 1355 Oxford Street PO Box 15000 Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • Child Development
  • Education
  • Language and Reading Development
  • Bilingualism

Cross Appointments

Faculty of Health Professions, Dalhousie University
Developmental Pediatrics, IWK Health Centre
Graduate Faculty. Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, University of Toronto


BSc Honours (University of Prince Edward Island)
DPhil (University of Oxford)
PDF (University of British Columbia)

Research Interests

Dr. Hélène Deacon is a Member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada and a Professor in the Faculty of Science, where she directs the Language and Literacy Lab. She completed her doctoral research as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford in 2004. She is currently co-Director of a new 2.5 million dollar Partnership Grant: Ensuring Full Literacy in a Multicultural and Digital World. Deacon has world-renowned expertise in reading development, with active collaborative research examining the intersection of education with health outcomes.

Research students at all levels can get involved in new data collection or analysis of existing large-scale datasets, including learning new statistical techniques. Potential projects include examining family coping through COVID-19 lock-down, coping strategies of university students with a history of reading difficulties, and reading development in children, including in digital contexts.

Selected Publications

  • Deacon, S. H., Rodriguez, L. M., Elgendi, M., King, F. E., Nogueira-Arjona, R., Sherry, S. B., & Stewart, S. H. (2021). Parenting through a pandemic: Mental health and substance use consequences to couples of mandated homeschooling. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 10(4), 281-293. http://doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000171
  • DesRoches, D. I., Deacon, S. H., Rodriguez, L. M., Sherry, S. B., Nogueira-Arjona, R., Elgendi, M. M., Meier, S., Abbass, A., King, F. E., & Stewart S. H. (2021). Homeschooling during COVID-19: Gender differences in work–family conflict and alcohol use behaviour among romantic couples. Social Sciences, 10(7), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10070240
  • Sohail, J., Sorenson Duncan, T., Koh, P. W., Deacon, S. H., & Chen, X. (2022). How syntactic awareness might influence reading comprehension in English-French bilingual children. Reading & Writing, 1-25. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-021-10245-3
  • Tong, X., Kwan, J. L. Y., Tong, X., & Deacon, S. H. (2021). How Chinese–English bilingual fourth graders draw on syntactic awareness in reading comprehension: Within‐ and cross‐language effects. Reading Research Quarterly. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.400
  • MacKay, E., Lynch, E., Sorenson Duncan, T., & Deacon, S. H. (2021). Informing the science of reading: Students’ awareness of sentence-level information is important for reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(1), 221-230. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.397
  • Metsala, J. L., Sparks, E., David, M., Conrad, N., & Deacon, S. H. (2021). What is the best way to characterise the contributions of oral language to reading comprehension: Listening comprehension or individual oral language skills? Journal of Research in Reading. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9817.12362
  • MacKay, E. J., Laroche, A., Parrila, R., & Deacon, S. H. (2019). A beginning exploration of text generation abilities in university students with a history of reading difficulties. Dyslexia25(2), 207-218. https://doi.org/10.002/dys.1610
  • Elgendi, M., Stewart, S. H., Mackay, E. J., Deacon, S. H. (2021). Two aspects of psychological functioning in undergraduates with a history of reading difficulties: Anxiety and self-efficacy. Annals of Dyslexia, 71(1), 84-102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11881-021-00223-3
  • ICI Radio-Canada Première. (2021, June 2). Homeschooling challenges for families. [Radio broadcast]. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/ohdio/premiere/emissions/le-reveil-nouvelle-ecosse-et-t-n/episodes/537471/rattrapage-du-jeudi-3-juin-2021?fbclid=IwAR1Ebs3n0pqsFLtNT1ktKntYnw6lPojTnP0PSRhD6JF2Db3csFds7rjNK_g 
  • Thomson, J., & Deacon, S. H. (2021, March 9). How technology can assist a child’s journey to literacy. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-how-technology-can-assist-a-childs-journey-to-literacy/ 

Selected Awards and Honours

2020 Elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars


Killam Professor, Faculty of Science


Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists Editor’s award


Voted 3rd Best Professor in 2012 for “Best of Halifax” in local newspaper “The Coast”


IWK Auxiliary Award for top grant submitted to competition


UKLA/Wiley-Blackwell Research in Literacy Education Award


March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Award


National Academy of Education Spencer Fellowship


Visiting Professor, European Doctoral College


  • Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars
  • Affiliate Member, Language Sciences Initiative, University of British Columbia
  • Member of Society for the Scientific Studies of Reading


PSYO 1012 - Introduction to Psychology II: Learning and Development
PSYO 3093 - Development of Language and Literacy
PSYO 4092 - Special Topics in Developmental Psychology
PSYO 4501/4502 - Honours Thesis Seminar

Service and Activity

  • Editorial Advisory Board Member for: Journal of Research in Reading (since 2008), Reading Psychology (since 2008), Applied Psycholinguistics (since 2012), Scientific Studies of Reading (since 2012), Reading Research Quarterly (since 2017), The Reading League (since 2019), and Journal of Educational Psychology (since 2020).
  • At Dalhousie: Member, Faculty of Science Human Ethics Committee (Social); Member, Ad Hoc Probationary Review Committee (Department of Psychology and Neuroscience); and Honours Advisor (Department of Psychology and Neuroscience).