Speech defines us as human beings, while literacy is the foundation of modern civilization. Yet the relationship between speech and literacy is anything but simple. Although talking and understanding what others say comes naturally to every healthy child, many individuals as well as entire societies do not read or write. Disorders, disease and trauma impair some people’s ability to speak and/or understand the speech of others. Disabilities and inadequate education prevent many more from learning to read or write.

How do we acquire, produce and understand speech? How do we achieve literacy? How do these fundamental communicative characteristics breakdown? Exploring such questions opens a window on the inner workings of the brain with profound implications to help those whose speech, language and reading problems impact their daily lives. The science of the spoken and the written word promises to help these people participate more fully in society. For more than 80 years, the Haskins Laboratories has been a leading multidisciplinary community of scientists studying speech, language and reading and their disorders with the practical applications improving human communication.