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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Learning from Word Books: Does the Type of Illustration Matter?


Picture books are a popular medium through which to promote language acquisition in young children. However, not much is known about how the pictorial context in which words are introduced in such books impacts word learning in toddlers, or how joint book reading further mediates this relationship. The present study introduced words to 19-23-month-old toddlers through books in either contextually rich, semantically relevant illustrations, or on a white background in isolation. Children and their parents participated in three lab visits during which a range of language and environmental measures were taken. Parents read our intervention materials at home between the first and second visits. We found that the pictorial context in which vocabulary words are presented was significantly related to language measures throughout our study. Further, this context also influences parents’ reading techniques, with longer interactions and more target words produced when reading contextually illustrated books. Our minimal book intervention shows promise in promoting vocabulary development in typically talking toddlers.

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