J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Expert in Colonial American Literacy

Last week I was saddened to learn of the death of E. Jennifer Monaghan, author of Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America, a necessary source on the experiences of Revolutionary-era children.

Monaghan was eighty-one years old, an emeritus professor at Brooklyn College, and, like many female scholars of her generation, a latecomer to her specialty.

Prof. Monaghan was born in Cambridge, England. She earned a B.A. in classics at Oxford and, with a grant from the English-Speaking Union, an M.A. in Greek at the University of Illinois. Then she met and married Charles Monaghan, an American journalist, and they had three children.

Her obituary explains:
Spurred by her experience as a volunteer reading teacher at a local public school and a fascination with phonics, Jennifer decided to pursue a graduate degree in reading education, receiving an Ed. D. from Yeshiva Graduate School of Education with a dissertation on Noah Webster, which was later published as A Common Heritage: Noah Webster’s Blueback Speller. The book launched her career as a historian of literacy.

Author of dozens of scholarly papers and invited presentations worldwide, she was the founder of the History of Reading Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association and edited the group’s newsletter for 25 years. Their annual best-book award is named after her.
Monaghan’s collection of antique reading textbooks is now at the University of Kansas.

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