Our prior work showed that kindergarten children with developmental language disorder (DLD) needed to hear a new word 36 times to learn it. In this study, we wanted to determine whether it mattered how those 36 exposures were achieved. Is it better to hear the word many times in a single book reading session (e.g., 9 times) but read the book fewer times (e.g., 4 times), or is it better to hear the word fewer times in a single book reading session (e.g., 4 times) but read the book many times (e.g., 9 times)? It turns out that it doesn't matter how you divide up the 36 exposures: children learn equally well. However, the children did not remember the words they learned after we stopped reading the books, and there was a lot of variation in how many words each child learned. More research is needed to determine how to help children learn and remember as many words as possible.
This is important because it means that book reading can be divided up into intervals that are convenient for speech-language pathologists, parents, teachers, and children. For example, for children with shorter attention spans, the words can be talked about fewer times in a single book reading session to maintain the child's attention and motivation, but the book can be read many different times to achieve 36 total exposures to the words. Also, the variation in remembering the words and in the number of words learned means that speech-language pathologist need to closely monitor learning and remembering words for each child. Because this was a research study, we were not able to adjust the book reading to better meet the needs of each individual child. These results suggest that tailoring the treatment to each individual child will likely be an important step in clinical practice.
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