Doubling down on serendipity


  • Catherine E. Snow



The lessons I have learned over the last many years seem always to come in pairs – a lesson about the findings that brings with it a lesson about life as a researcher...

Lesson 1. Even as a doctoral student, I believed that the sorts of social interactions young children had with adults supported language acquisition. In 1971, when I completed my dissertation, that was a minority view, and one ridiculed by many. I was, unfortunately, deflected from a full-on commitment to research on the relationship between social environment and language development for many years by the general atmosphere of disdain for such claims. In the intervening years, of course, evidence to support the claim has accumulated, and now it is generally acknowledged that a large part of the variance among children in language skills can be explained by their language environments. This consensus might have been achieved earlier had I and others been braver about pursuing it.

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Select References

Snow, C. E., Burns, S., & Griffin, P. (Eds). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Snow, C. E., & Ferguson, C.A. (Eds). (1977). Talking to children: Language input and acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Snow, C. E., & Goldfield, B. (1983). Turn the page please: Situation specific language learning. Journal of Child Language, 10, 551 570.

Snow, C. E., & Hoefnagel Höhle, M. (1978). Critical period for language acquisition: Evidence from second language learning. Child Development, 49, 1263 1279.

Reprinted in S. Krashen, R. Scarcella & M. Long (Eds.) (1982). Child adult differences in second language acquisition (pp. 93-111).

Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Snow, C. E., Lawrence, J., & White, C. (2009). Generating knowledge of academic language among urban middle school students. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2, 325-344.

Snow, C. E., Porche, M., Tabors, P., & Harris, S. (2007). Is literacy enough? Pathways to academic success for adolescents. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.




How to Cite

Snow, C. E. (2017). Doubling down on serendipity. Education Review, 24.



Acquired Wisdom