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Certain Books May Improve Kids' Vocabulary

April 20, 2010, 5:50 PM by Katie Janssen

Certain Books May Improve Kids' Vocabulary
SIOUX FALLS, SD - You've heard reading is good for kids, but just how beneficial is it?  One Augustana researcher believes certain books may actually expand your child's vocabulary, so she's doing a study to find out.

For Katie Johnson, it's story time with her dad at Sioux Falls Lutheran Preschool.

"She loves books. Katie is now reading to her little brother, or pretending to read to her little brother," Matt Johnson, Katie’s father, said.

Four-year-old Katie is part of a storybook study, to learn how reading to children impacts their speech and vocabulary. Augustana College assistant professor Olivia Lima developed the study, which involves a total of 50 children. Ten of Lima's psychology students read to the kids four times over two weeks, and the books are specially-selected.

"Using different reading styles so we can look at how styles impact learning, then we give a pre-test and a post-test of words to see what they've learned," Lima said.

Lima says the study is not only geared toward building vocabulary, but also to develop an early love of reading.

"Which is beneficial to them in ways far beyond the specific vocabulary they're learning,” Lima said. “So regular reading times, reading before bed time, for example."

The Johnsons are already impressed by what Katie has picked up from books.

"It's amazing,” Johnson said. “She's repeating the story only after one or two times we've read it." 

They're looking forward to seeing what she learns by being a part of the storybook study.

Lima provided this list of books that contain some advanced vocabulary: 
  • Look Out Bird (Marilyn Janovitz)
  • No More Jumping on the Bed (Tedd Arnold)
  • The Amazing Bone (William Steig)
  • Shy Charles (Rosemary Wells)
She also offers some advice.

"It is very easy to find commercially available storybooks that are rich in vocabulary. It is just one more aspect to consider when selecting books. In addition to all the many other benefits that reading brings, I'd encourage adults to keep in mind the vocabulary-boosting power of books, and to be attentive to new words they can discuss with children," Lima said.

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