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Learning orthographic and semantic representations (Shakory et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-02-23, 21:18 authored by Sharry Shakory, Xi Chen, S. Hélène Deacon
Purpose: The value of shared reading as an opportunity for learning word meanings, or semantics, is well established; it is less clear whether children learn about the orthography, or word spellings, in this context. We tested whether children can learn the spellings and meanings of new words at the same time during a tightly controlled shared reading session. We also examined whether individual differences in either or both of orthographic and semantic learning during shared reading in English were related to word reading in English and French concurrently and 6 months longitudinally in emergent English–French bilinguals.
Method: Sixty-two Grade 1 children (35 girls; Mage = 75.89 months) listened to 12 short stories, each containing four instances of a novel word, while the examiner pointed to the text. Choice measures of the spellings and meanings of the novel words were completed immediately after reading each set of three stories and again 1 week later. Standardized measures of word reading as well as controls for nonverbal reasoning, vocabulary, and phonological awareness were also administered.
Results: Children scored above chance on both immediate and delayed measures of orthographic and semantic learning. Orthographic learning was related to both English and French word reading at the same time point and 6 months later. In contrast, the relations between semantic learning and word reading were nonsignificant for both languages after including controls.
Conclusion: Shared reading is a valuable context for learning both word meanings and spellings, and the learning of orthographic representations in particular is related to word reading abilities.

Supplemental Material S1 and S2. Stories and the orthographic and semantic choice tasks.

Shakory, S., Chen, X., & Deacon, S. H. (2021). Learning orthographic and semantic representations simultaneously during shared reading. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This research was funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant 435-2013-1745, awarded to Xi Chen.