Can reading storybooks to children with specific language impairment help them learn vocabulary words?

Can reading storybooks to children with specific language impairment help them learn vocabulary words?

Holly Storkel’s idea to help young children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) learn vocabulary words through storybook reading is a newly funded clinical trial that will help answer a critical need.

The five-year study is aimed at developing an effective treatment for children with SLI, a subtle and often undiagnosed language impairment even though it is as common as ADHD—affecting about seven percent of children.

“Children with SLI have difficulty learning new words, which puts them at risk for later reading problems and academic failure,” said Storkel. Some research has found that children with SLI need to hear a word in context two to three times more often than their peers to learn them, she said.

Determining exactly how many more times children with SLI need to hear a word to learn it and the best way to expose kids to words could lead to the development of an effective treatment.

That treatment could be a modified version of interactive book reading, a research-based strategy in which an adult discusses vocabulary words in a storybook with children before, during and after reading the book by describing or defining the word and showing other ways to use it.

Once the researchers know the number of times children with SLI need to hear a word to learn it, they will test whether it is more effective to maximize the number of times children hear the word in a story book or the number of times they hear the book read.

This clinical trial will provide valuable information about the potential for optimizing interactive book reading as a possible SLI treatment and Storkel expects to be able to give general guidance to parents and others about how to help children with SLI learn words as a result.