Nicola Dawson

I’m a Research Associate at ReadOxford. Like others in the lab, my love of reading goes back a long way. I remember my pride aged 7 or 8 at completing ‘Book Track’ at my local library – a challenge to read and record a summary of 100 books (rewarded with a gold badge). My interest in reading and books made a degree in English Literature an obvious choice, and I completed this at Cardiff University in 2004. A subsequent stint as an au-pair in Paris looking after a trilingual 6-year old ignited a fascination with language development. I went on to train and work as a speech and language therapist, before moving into academia. My research has focused on how knowledge about morphology (the structure of words) supports reading development in late childhood and adolescence. More broadly, I’m interested in the links between oral language and literacy, and between language experience and language development. I still love reading!

My favourite word

My favourite childhood book

I like the word ‘spoonerism’. It refers to a speech error in which the speaker mixes up the sounds from two different words, so a person trying to say “lighting a fire” may accidentally produce “fighting a liar”. It has nothing to do with spoons!

It’s tough to choose one, but a book I read many times, and still have a copy of now, is ‘I Am David’ by Anne Holm. It’s about a boy who escapes a concentration camp and travels across Europe to find refuge in Denmark. He has little knowledge of the world outside the concentration camp, and is in constant fear that he will be recaptured. I loved books with adventure, tension and mystery, so this was one of my favourites.