Mona Voelkel

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How Stanley Became a Real Boy

Stanley and the Wild Words - Coming Soon
After years of cobbling together an instructional approach that combined meaning, morphology, and phonology, Structured Word Inquiry (SWI), with its addition of etymology within the framework of an inquiry approach, was the coherent, effective, and joyous approach, allowing students to make accelerated progress, for which I had long yearned.

Structured Word Inquiry (Bowers, 2010) investigates an interesting word using the framework of 4 questions:

  1. What is the meaning?
  2. Who are the relatives? (etymology)
  3. What is the structure? (morphology)
  4. How do the graphemes and phonemes function within a word and across a word family. (phonology)

There’s a reason that there is a <w> in <two> or a <k> in <knight>. There’s a reason why <friend> has an <i> or <doubt> has a <b>. I could tell you why but that would take away your joy of discovery. Believe me, you will want to learn how to investigate these questions for yourself and share what you’ve learned with others.

As a reading specialist, it has been my practice to begin every class with a book or poem. I wanted to read a picture book that would share a quick overview of this new way of looking at spelling that illuminates the sense of our spelling system, but I couldn’t find one. So, I started to write the picture book that became Stanley and the Wild Words.

It took numerous drafts and feedback from writing partners, my husband, and the exquisite writerly eye of my editor, Marye Elmlinger, until the story of Stanley and the Wild Words took shape on the page. Nancy Kincade, a friend and former colleague, now an illustrator, agreed to illustrate, and that is how Stanley became a real boy.

Nancy brought Stanley and his friends to life through her illustrations. I can’t wait for you to meet Stanley and the Wild Words on November 15th, 2022.

Word Quest: Real


real: actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed. (OED)



Latin res “property, goods, matter, thing, affair.” (Etymoline)


Real, reality, republic


re + al → real

Writing Invitation

Writing this picture book was a true labor of love. I kept writing this book even after my attorney son read an early draft filled with words like “phonemes”, “graphemes,” and “morphological relatives,” and lovingly asked, “But, Mom, who is this book for? Law school students who are having trouble with spelling?” I am so appreciative of his feedback, and all the feedback I received because you helped me write a better book. My husband, Ray, and editor Marye Elmlinger, were constant sources of inspiration, guidance, and encouragement. Do you have a project of your heart that you are getting ready to start? Let me know what you’re working on by emailing me at or commenting below.

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