Incidental Word Learning during Reading: Which Skills Do Children Use?
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Much of the growth in vocabulary during the school-age years occurs incidentally, as children encounter new words during silent reading. However, the language and reading skills that contribute to incidental word learning are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to explore the skills associated with incidental word knowledge growth during silent reading among a group of school-age children with a wide range of language and reading abilities. The study focused on the interaction of underlying skills with (a) the presence or absence of supportive context; (b) part of speech; (c) syntactic and semantic aspects of word knowledge; and (d) repeated encounters. Thirty-two children were exposed, through silent reading, to unfamiliar verbs and nouns, half inserted within story contexts and half encountered only during assessment, three times over the course of a week. Knowledge of the words' meaning and part of speech were assessed after each reading. Correlation analysis was used to examine the language and reading skills associated with word learning, and growth in word knowledge over time was explored through a linear mixed model. Results showed that individual skills contributed to word learning in complex patterns of interaction. Conclusion: Incidental word learning during silent reading is the result of an interplay between word-, context-, and learner-related variables. Research is needed to help children benefit maximally from incidental word-learning opportunities.