Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Profile

Melissa Baralt, PhD

Contact Email: mbaralt@fiu.edu


Florida International University
Miami, Florida
Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics


Melissa Baralt, Ph.D. (PhD, Georgetown University) is Associate Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the Department of Modern Languages (SIPA). Baralt is an applied psycholinguist whose work cuts across the humanities, social sciences, and medical science disciplines. Specializing in first and second language acquisition, language development in children, and language teaching, her research seeks to shed light on the sociocultural, cognitive, and environmental factors that lead to successful language outcomes. Baralt has published research on psycholinguistics, online language learning, language teaching, bilingualism and prematurity, heritage language learners, and minority student experiences in second language classrooms. Prior to coming to FIU, Baralt was a primary school teacher in Maracaibo, Venezuela. At FIU for the past 13 years, she aims to advance disciplinary and public knowledge about how the brain acquires language in infancy, early childhood, and throughout the life course, and what teachers, caregivers, and parents can do to maximize the language learning process at these various stages. Her funded research follows two strands. The first seeks to provide language-based support for at-risk Latinx children in order to maximize their language and literacy outcomes. In this strand, Dr. Baralt works in three, related areas: 1) the general effects of bilingualism on preterm-born children, 2) the neural recruitment of executive function in children of various ages, and 3), pathways for supporting at-risk children’s early language environments. With funding from Baptist Health, she and her team were the first to show that productive bilingualism leads to enhanced executive function skills in preterm-born children. Baralt’s work also highlights the connection between language and health, for which she and her team created a mobile app, Háblame Bebé. Winner of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Federal Challenge in 2017, Háblame Bebé engages Latinx parents with information about and support for their children’s bilingual language development. The app is funded by the National Library of Medicine (NIH) as well as U.S. HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), and is currently being used with nurses and at-risk mothers in South Florida’s federally funded Nurse-Family Partnership.

Research Interests

  • ROR
  • ROR in early infancy
  • ROR in the NICU
  • Modelling
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Home Visitation
  • Libraries and Public Resources

Ongoing Research

  • Háblame Bebé as a free app technology to support parents in promoting their child’s bilingualism and monitoring their developmental milestones
  • Late talkers and bilingual language development
  • Community-based research for the creation of books in Haitian Creole
  • Highlighting the important role of Hispanic fathers in their children’s language development
  • Supporting and Celebrating Black Spanish language learners in HSIs and HBCUs