Susan Meddaugh is the author and illustrator of the charming Martha Speaks series as well as other animal-centric stories like Cinderella's Rat and the original fairy tale The Witch's Walking Stick. Her books are loved by kids and their parents for their lively, expressive illustrations, insight into what our pets are really thinking, and quirky humor.
You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography on Susan Meddaugh, or see a selected list of her children's books. (This video is also available on YouTube and iTunes.)
Learn more about how the PBS animated show Martha Speaks helps strengthen vocabulary in young kids.
Susan Meddaugh was born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey. She studied French literature and fine arts in college. After working briefly with an advertising agency in New York, she moved to Boston and to take a job at Houghton Mifflin as a designer and eventually an art director. While at Houghton Mifflin, Meddaugh took on a book illustration project, and then decided to strike out on her own as a writer and illustrator of children's books.
Since that time, Meddaugh has written and illustrated many popular books for children, including Martha Speaks, which was chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book for 1992. In 1998 she was awarded the New England Book Award, given by the New England Booksellers Association to recognize a body of work.
Martha (of Martha Speaks) was a real dog who lived with Meddaugh and her family. One day, when Susan's son Niko (who was then 7) was eating alphabet soup, he wondered what would happen if they fed the soup to Martha. Would she talk? Meddaugh decided to find out, and has written six books about Martha, and her friend Skits. The wonderful characters she created are the inspiration for the PBS animated children's program Martha Speaks, a fun and engaging way to help young kids learn vocabulary.
Meddaugh currently has four dogs, and while Martha and Skits have died, they live on in the books and television series.
Helping kids learn vocabulary
In the video interview below, Dr. Rebecca Silverman, literacy consultant for the Martha Speaks show, talks about how to strengthen children's vocabulary skills through conversation, the rich language in books, and quality educational television. Learn more in her article A Multidimensional Approach to Vocabulary Instruction: Supporting English Language Learners in Inclusive Classrooms.
You can also check out the Martha Speaks website. The site includes a special section for parents and teachers to learn more about how the program teaches new words, viewing tips to deepen the learning experience, word games and activities for parents and kids to do together (online and away from the computer), and lots more information about the show and Martha's creator, Susan Meddaugh.