Learning New Words From Storybooks An Efficacy Study With At-Risk Kindergartners Research Article
Research Article  |   January 01, 2005
Learning New Words From Storybooks
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Laura M. Justice
    University of Virginia, Charlottesville
    242 Ruffner Hall, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 22904
  • Joanne Meier
    University of Virginia, Charlottesville
  • Sharon Walpole
    University of Delaware, Newark
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: lmj2t@virginia.edu
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Articles
Research Article   |   January 01, 2005
Learning New Words From Storybooks
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, January 2005, Vol. 36, 17-32. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2005/003)
History: Received May 12, 2003 , Accepted January 16, 2004
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, January 2005, Vol. 36, 17-32. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2005/003)
History: Received May 12, 2003; Accepted January 16, 2004
Web of Science® Times Cited: 182

Purpose: The extant literature suggests that exposure to novel vocabulary words through repeated readings of storybooks influences children’s word learning, and that adult elaboration of words in context can accelerate vocabulary growth. This study examined the influence of small-group storybook reading sessions on the acquisition of vocabulary words for at-risk kindergartners, and the impact of word elaboration on learning. An additional goal was to study differential responses to treatment for children with high versus low vocabulary skill.

Method: Using a pretest-posttest comparison group research design, 57 kindergartners were randomly assigned to a treatment (n = 29) or comparison (n = 28) group. Children were also differentiated into high (n = 31) versus low (n = 26) vocabulary skill groups using scores on a standardized receptive vocabulary test. Children in the treatment group completed 20 small-group storybook reading sessions during which they were exposed to 60 novel words randomly assigned to non-elaborated and elaborated conditions. Pre- and posttest examined the quality of children’s definitions for the 60 novel words.

Results: Overall, word-learning gains were modest. Children in the treatment group made significantly greater gains in elaborated words relative to children in the comparison group; no influence of storybook reading exposure was seen for non-elaborated words. Children with low vocabulary scores made the greatest gains on elaborated words.

Clinical Implications: Suggestions are offered for using storybooks as a clinical tool for fostering vocabulary development. As an efficacy study, results should inform future applied research on word learning for at-risk children.

The authors thank Cara Capellini, Sarah Colton, and Jenny Reifenberger, all of whom played important roles in the conduct of this project. Dr. Bruce Gansneder at the University of Virginia played a helpful role in clarifying some of the statistical techniques. We gratefully acknowledge the participation and cooperation of two schools and their principals, six kindergarten teachers, and 57 children. The first two authors gave birth during the course of this investigation: We would like to recognize Adelaide Justice Mykel and Erin Grace Meier for their unassailable presence in this work.
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