An investigation into how children gain vocabulary via storybooks

Williams, Sophie-Elizabeth (2016) An investigation into how children gain vocabulary via storybooks. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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For many children, storybooks are ubiquitous, forming a unique and special
part of their childhood. Storybooks are a critical aspect of young children’s
emerging literacy. Exposing them to phoneme word sounds, a rich varied vocabulary
and print knowledge. This thesis explores one aspect of the amazing relationship
children have with storybooks. Specifically, how do children learn new words from
books, and it further discusses the best ways to use storybooks to facilitate this

Through the use of purpose-made storybooks, which help to control for all the
different book elements (e.g. ensuring the story plot and the words that children
were learning were novel). This thesis presents an empirical examination of the
cognitive processes that help children learn new words through shared storybook
reading. A series of experiments investigate the relationship between repetition of
words, sleep consolidation and book formats – and their effects on vocabulary
acquisition in 3.5-year-old children.

These experiments have allowed us to isolate factors that increase the
likelihood of children learning more words, and knowledge that can be used to
support children’s vocabulary development. Importantly, we have discovered that
children benefit from the same contextually cueing effects as adults supporting
Horst, Parsons, and Bryan (2011) theory for repeated effects during repeated book
readings. In addition, children demonstrate similar memory consolidation effects as
adults when learning immediately proceeds sleep (Stickgold & Walker, 2005a). By
examining the effects of rhyme books, we can further contribute to Hayes,
Chemelski, and Palmer (1982) levels of processing theory for memory function in

Overall, this thesis examines how understanding the cognitive processes
supported by regular storybook reading can provide benefits for all preschool
children, and outlines accessible and feasible techniques to help children’s emergent

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0712 Developmental psychology Including infant psychology, child psychology, adolescence, adulthood
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1025 Teaching (Principles and practice) > LB1049.9 Reading (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1050.9 Educational psychology > LB1060 Learning
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2016 11:31
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2019 08:52

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