Sounds and letters and words and sentences and stories

The cot-caught merger: a dialectal difference and early literacy instruction

Language is always evolving, with new words (bingeable, superspreader), new expressions (I can’t even), and even shifting syntax (Have you any? vs Do you have any?) and grammar (the fading subjunctive: If I were…).  But the main topic of interest today is shifts in pronunciation.  The way we pronounce words changes slowly over time, oftenContinue reading “The cot-caught merger: a dialectal difference and early literacy instruction”

A boat by any other name

With the exception of sound effect words (called onomatopoeia like sizzle, beep), speech sounds are arbitrarily attached to the meanings of words.  There’s not really a reason why a dog is called dog and not some other string of sounds like bop.  And as Juliet famously said, a rose by any other name would smellContinue reading “A boat by any other name”

So many muches! Grammar errors and what they tell us about language development

When kids first begin talking, typically at around 12 months of age, they of course stick to the basics— very short phrases that convey basic wants, needs, and social routines.  Mama.  More.  Up.  Hi!  All-done.  Milk.  Doggy.  Bye-bye.  Oops!  These are mostly one-word phrases and are not pronounced perfectly.  Then, typically when children are betweenContinue reading “So many muches! Grammar errors and what they tell us about language development”

Looking for the Helpers

Are you feeling pretty overwhelmed these days?  Me too.  Amidst all the confusion and grief of the past several weeks, many people have quoted the late, great Mr. Rogers, who once shared his mother’s wise words: Besides the unwavering energy of my own two little kids, another thing that keeps me going these days isContinue reading “Looking for the Helpers”

How Babies Learn Words

These are rough times.  If you’re like me, you’re spending too much time reading the news and fretting about the uncertainty of the months ahead.  That, and trying to keep the kids from seriously wounding each other.  Kind of like our collective reaction to the coronavirus, my kids’ disputes tend to escalate rather quickly. So,Continue reading “How Babies Learn Words”

How We Read- Keep it Simple

For decades, especially leading up to the 2000s, educators and researchers have debated how children should be taught to read, and how exactly the process of reading works in our brains.  The discussion has been at times intense and impassioned, which is understandable given what is at stake.  After all, we live in the ageContinue reading “How We Read- Keep it Simple”

Get Ready to Read!

When you think about the first steps in teaching young children to read, you likely think about starting with the letters- their names and their sounds.  Teaching the ABCs can start any time a preschooler is ready, but there are actually a couple of other things we can do before Kindergarten to set the stageContinue reading “Get Ready to Read!”


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