Ph.D., Clark University
M.A., University of Massachusetts, Amherst
M.A., Teachers College, Columbia University
B.A., Barnard College

       My research explores the social origins of children's language and literacy development in families from diverse cultural and linguistic communities. I have conducted research in the United States and in Latin America using parent-child storytelling and shared book reading as a context for understanding the developmental precursors to literacy. Another line of my work focuses on the challenge of defining the role of language in neurodevelopmental disorders. I am currently working on a longitudinal intervention study, with families in San José, examining the impact of home conversations on children's social-emotional, language, and literacy skills.  As part of my collaboration with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, student interns participate in the Carle family literacy program and contribute to the program evaluation in the spring semester (2015, 2016, 2017, 2020). 


Awards, Grants, and Other Professional Activities

Consultant, Eric Carle Museum, funded by The Davis Foundation (2015, 2016, 2017) and the Funder Collaborative for Reading Success (2018-2020)                               

Co-PI, Promoting Emergent Literacy Among Costa Rican Preschoolers: An Intervention Study, funded by the University of Costa Rica/Vicerrectoría de Investigación, Universidad de Costa Rica (2014-2016)

Editorial Board, Early Education and Development (2011- 2019) 
Sage Author, Most Downloaded Article 2009-2010, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy
Honorary Attachment, Royal Free Hospital, London (1999)
NIH Graduate Research Fellow, UMASS, Amherst (1996-1998)
Fulbright Scholar, Cairo, Egypt (1981-1982)

Ad-hoc reviewer: American Journal of Speech Language Pathology; Child Development; British Journal of Developmental Psychology; Cognitive Development; Developmental Psychology; Developmental Science; Early Childhood Research Quarterly; First Language; Infancia y Aprendizaje; Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology; Journal of Child Language; Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology; Journal of Early Childhood Literacy; Journal of Experimental Child Psychology; Journal of Literacy Research; Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research; Learning and Individual Differences; Linguistics and Education, Narrative Inquiry.


Carmiol, A. M., Sparks, A., & Conejo, D. L. (2022). Book sharing and reminiscing: Caregivers’ conversational style and children’s language and literacy development in low-income Costa Rican families. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 60, 110-125.

Thierry, K. L., & Sparks, A. (2019). Latino families engage in elaborative conversations: Effects on children’s recall and vocabulary. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 8, 2297-2311.

Norbury, C. F., & Sparks, A. (2015). Language variation within the autism spectrum: Causes and consequences. In  S. Robson & S. F. Quinn (Eds.). The Routledge International Handbook of Young Children's Thinking. London: Routledge.  

Carmiol, A. M., & Sparks, A. (2014) Narrative development across cultural contexts: Finding the pragmatic in parent-child reminiscing. In D. Mathews (Ed.) Pragmatic Development: Trends in Language Acquisition Research. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Sparks, A., Carmiol, A. M., & Rios, M. (2013). High point narrative structure in mother-child conversations about the past and children’s emergent literacy skills in Costa Rica.  Actualidades en Psicología, 27, 49-67.

Sparks, A., & Reese, E. (2013). From reminiscing to reading: Home contributions to children’s developing language and literacy in low-income families. First Language, 33, 89-110. doi:10.1177/0142723711433583

Norbury, C., & Sparks, A. (2013) Difference or disorder? Cultural issues in understanding neurodevelopmental disorders. Developmental Psychology, 49, 45-58. doi:10.1037/a0027446

Sparks, A., & Leyva, D. (2013). Child Language Acquisition. Oxford Bibliographies in Latino Studies. New York: Oxford University Press.

Carmiol A. M., & Sparks, A. (2013). La relación entre habilidades prelectoras y desarrollo narrativo en niños y niñas preescolares costarricenses: Aportes para un enfoque comprensivo de la alfabetización emergente. In A. A. Benavides and K. Hess (Eds.) ¿Qué me cuentas? Narraciones y desalloro narrative linguistico en niños hispanohablantes. Queretaro, MX: Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro.

Leyva, D., Sparks, A., & Reese, E. (2012). The link between preschooler’s phonological awareness and mother’s book-reading and reminiscing practices in low-income families. Journal of Literacy Research, 44, 426-447.doi:  10.1177/1086296X12460040.

Reese, E., Sparks, A., & Suggate, S. (2011). Assessment of narrative skills. In E. Hoff (Ed.) Blackwell Guide to Research Methods in Child Language (pp. 133-148). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Reese, E., Leyva, D., Sparks, A., & Grolnick, W. (2010) Maternal elaborative reminiscing increases low-income children’s narrative skills relative to dialogic reading. Early Education and Development, 21.doi:10.1080/10409289.2010.481552

Reese, E., Sparks, A., & Leyva, D. (2010). A review of parent interventions for  preschool children’s language and emergent literacy. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 10, 97-117. doi: 10.1177/1468798409356987. Reprinted in: K. Paul & J. Rowsell. (2011). Early Childhood Literacy. London: Sage Publications. The most downloaded article, 2009-2010, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

Sparks, A. (2008). Latino preschoolers talk about the past: Implications for language and literacy. In McCabe, A., Bailey, A., & Melzi G. (Eds.) Spanish-Language Narration and Literacy: Culture, Cognition, and Emotion (pp. 273-295). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sparks, A. (2002). Lectura en un voz alta. Vagon Literario, 1, Mexico City: Grupo Editorial Santillana.