A child's spoken vocabulary helps them when it comes to reading new words for the first time

July 19, 2017, Macquarie University
Credit: Macquarie University

Children find it easier to spell a word when they've already heard it spoken, a new study led by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD) at Macquarie University has found. The findings are the first to provide evidence about how oral vocabulary in children is linked to their ability to learn to read new words.

"We found that when children have heard a new word spoken, and know how it is pronounced and what it means, they are then able to process this word with more speed when they have to read it for the first time," explained Signy Wegener, lead researcher of the study.

The results, which are published in the journal Developmental Science, found that children benefit the most from oral familiarity with a word when it sounds the way it is spelled, indicating that predictability of the spelling of a word is an important factor in the process.

"The findings indicate that when children get to the stage where they "read" spoken words for the first time, they have already formed expectations about how the written form of these words should look, even before seeing them in print," explained Ms Wegener.

The researchers assessed the reading abilities of 36 children aged 9 to 10 – an age at which children are expected to have a well-developed knowledge of the mappings between sounds and letters – by tracking their eye movements when they first read a new word. They found that children with prior experience with this new word in oral form spent less time gazing at it in print, indicating that they found it easier to read compared to children who had not heard the word spoken before.

"While it is understood that reading is good for language acquisition in , the link between how reading and talking to your child helps them identify the spelling of new words has been difficult to uncover. The results certainly add weight to the fact that reading to your kids helps their language development in an array of different ways, including helping them learn to read themselves," said CCD Reading Program Leader Distinguished Professor Anne Castles.

"These findings also support the addition of oral vocabulary instruction in the classroom when it comes to teaching our kids how to spell," MS Wegener concluded.

Explore further: Picture overload hinders children's word learning from storybooks

More information: Signy Wegener et al. Children reading spoken words: interactions between vocabulary and orthographic expectancy, Developmental Science (2017). DOI: 10.1111/desc.12577

Related Stories

Picture overload hinders children's word learning from storybooks

June 30, 2017
Less is more when it comes to helping children learn new vocabulary from picture books, according to a new study.

The number of illustrations in storybooks influences children's word learning

July 12, 2017
New research shows that the number of illustrations presented in a storybook can influence preschool children's ability to learn words from shared reading.

How the brain changes when we learn to read

May 11, 2017
Right now, you are reading these words without much thought or conscious effort. In lightning-fast bursts, your eyes are darting from left to right across your screen, somehow making meaning from what would otherwise be a ...

How do we learn to read?

April 18, 2017
The sign on the public car park in the tiny Tasmanian town of Wynyard reads, "Egress from this carpark is to be via the access lane in the rear."

Why repetition may hold key to helping children with specific language impairment

March 28, 2017
Simple repetition learning techniques could help young children struggling with language to learn vocabulary faster, according to the latest research from scientists from the UK and Germany.

Reading picture books with children holds promise for treating common language disorder

January 19, 2017
A clinical trial of book reading to help kindergarten children with Specific Language Impairment learn words has determined the number of times a child with SLI needs to hear a word to learn it: 36 times or exposures compared ...

Recommended for you

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Linguistic red flags from Facebook posts can predict future depression diagnoses

October 15, 2018
In any given year, depression affects more than 6 percent of the adult population in the United States—some 16 million people—but fewer than half receive the treatment they need. What if an algorithm could scan social ...

Early changes to synapse gene regulation may cause Alzheimer's disease

October 15, 2018
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, involving memory loss and a reduction in cognitive abilities. Patients with AD develop multiple abnormal protein structures in their brains that are thought to ...

Clues that suggest people are lying may be deceptive, study shows

October 12, 2018
The verbal and physical signs of lying are harder to detect than people believe, a study suggests.

Why don't we understand statistics? Fixed mindsets may be to blame

October 12, 2018
Unfavorable methods of teaching statistics in schools and universities may be to blame for people ignoring simple solutions to statistical problems, making them hard to solve. This can have serious consequences when applied ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.