Nicole Gardner-Neblett: ‘Talking makes kids better readers’

College of Arts & Sciences

All Rights ReservedNicole Gardner-Neblett is an advanced research scientist with the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She is also a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. Her research focuses on investigating factors that promote children’s language and literacy development.
When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A doctor living in New York — specifically on Park Avenue, with a French poodle.
Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose psychology as your subject of study.
As an undergraduate, I volunteered to work on a research study led by a developmental psychologist investigating the link between children’s ethnic identity and academic achievement. I remember shopping for skin-colored paper to use in the study to assess children’s perception of their skin color as an element of their identity. I was fascinated by the idea of quantifying identity, making links from identity to achievement, interpreting the findings, and making recommendations to teachers and parents. After that, I knew that I wanted to study how children develop, and how to use what we learn to support their development through changes to policy and practice.

Researchers are problem-solvers. Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?
In December 2014, I learned about a grant competition that fit perfectly with my work. But the grant activities were restricted to a county that was about two hours away — and I knew no one who could help with data collection. The people in my department didn’t have any contacts there, so I conducted an Internet search of different agencies that might be potential partners and then started cold calling. After a …

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