University of Sussex
Williams, Sophie-Elizabeth.pdf (3.15 MB)

An investigation into how children gain vocabulary via storybooks

Download (3.15 MB)
posted on 2023-06-09, 03:58 authored by Sophie-Elizabeth Williams
For many children, storybooks are ubiquitous, forming a unique and special part of their childhood. Storybooks are a critical aspect of young children’s emerging literacy. Exposing them to phoneme word sounds, a rich varied vocabulary and print knowledge. This thesis explores one aspect of the amazing relationship children have with storybooks. Specifically, how do children learn new words from books, and it further discusses the best ways to use storybooks to facilitate this learning. Through the use of purpose-made storybooks, which help to control for all the different book elements (e.g. ensuring the story plot and the words that children were learning were novel). This thesis presents an empirical examination of the cognitive processes that help children learn new words through shared storybook reading. A series of experiments investigate the relationship between repetition of words, sleep consolidation and book formats – and their effects on vocabulary acquisition in 3.5-year-old children. These experiments have allowed us to isolate factors that increase the likelihood of children learning more words, and knowledge that can be used to support children’s vocabulary development. Importantly, we have discovered that children benefit from the same contextually cueing effects as adults supporting Horst, Parsons, and Bryan (2011) theory for repeated effects during repeated book readings. In addition, children demonstrate similar memory consolidation effects as adults when learning immediately proceeds sleep (Stickgold & Walker, 2005a). By examining the effects of rhyme books, we can further contribute to Hayes, Chemelski, and Palmer (1982) levels of processing theory for memory function in children. Overall, this thesis examines how understanding the cognitive processes supported by regular storybook reading can provide benefits for all preschool children, and outlines accessible and feasible techniques to help children’s emergent literacy.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Psychology Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager