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Examining incidental word learning during reading in children: the role of context

Joseph, H. ORCID: and Nation, K. (2018) Examining incidental word learning during reading in children: the role of context. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 166. pp. 190-211. ISSN 0022-0965

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2017.08.010


From mid-childhood onwards, children learn hundreds of new words every year incidentally through reading. Yet little is known about this process, and the circumstances in which vocabulary acquisition is maximised. We examined whether encountering novel words in semantically diverse rather than semantically uniform contexts led to better learning. Children aged 10-11 read sentences containing novel words while their eye movements were monitored. Results showed a reduction in reading times over exposure for all children, but especially those with good reading comprehension. There was no difference in reading times or in offline post-test performance for words encountered in semantically diverse and uniform contexts but diversity did interact with reading comprehension skill. Contextual informativeness also affected reading behaviour. We conclude that children acquire word knowledge from incidental reading, that children with better comprehension skills are more efficient and competent learners, and that although varying the semantic diversity of the reading episodes did not improve learning per se in our laboratory manipulation of diversity, diversity did affect reading behaviour in less direct ways.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Language and Literacy in Education
ID Code:72140


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