The effect of shared book reading on the acquisition of expressive vocabulary of a 7 year old who uses AAC (summary)



Children with complex communication needs (CCN) often have difficulties in many aspects of language acquisition compared to typically developing children.

Vocabulary knowledge has been found to be a predictor of potential educational achievement, but can be difficult for children with CCN to achieve. They often need more specific, individual and repeated exposure to new words in order to acquire new vocabulary. Shared book reading can potentially provide a way of enabling this teaching to take place within a naturalistic language learning context at home and in school.

It has been found that training adults to support interactions with children during shared book reading activities can help develop vocabulary, sentence complexity and print knowledge.

What was the aim of the study?

The study aimed to look at whether taking part in a book reading intervention programme improved the expressive vocabulary of a 7 year old girl who used AAC.

What did the authors do?

A single case study of a child who has a congenital neurological condition is presented. The child had delayed receptive and expressive language development, used a Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA), was an emergent reader and had letter-sound correspondence.

An intervention programme was carries out by a specialist teacher who worked with the child. The programme used six early reading books, each of which had at least five words which were unfamiliar to the child and which were targeted in the intervention.

Following baseline assessments the intervention took place over a six week period, with three one hour individual reading sessions each week. A different book was the focus of the sessions each week and one session per week was spent on each of the following: a pre-reading activity, a shared reading activity and a post-reading activity.

Following the intervention, generalisation and maintenance of the skills acquired were reviewed.

What did they find?

The child's responses at each of the baseline, intervention and maintenance stages were analysed, looking at the number of different words used, the total number of words and the number of multi-word utterances. The number of story elements used by the child when retelling were also counted, looking at her use of the 'Who? What? When/Where? How? and Why?' of the story.

Increases were found in the total number and range of words used and the types of words these were. There was also an increase in the number of multi-word utterances. These gains were at least partially maintained at the follow up point.

During the intervention the child was also found to use an increased number of story elements, but this was not maintained after the intervention period ended.


This was a single case study so its findings cannot be generalised to the wider population. The structure of the project does not allow the researchers to show which element of the programme had the greatest effect on vocabulary development and it did not consider whether there was any generalisation of new vocabulary use to different contexts and activities.


The authors believe that repeated exposure to new vocabulary, in a targeted way, encouraged vocabulary learning, but that to develop expressive use it is necessary to have repeated opportunities to use the new vocabulary in response to questioning.

Shared book reading provides a good context to support language development if particular strategies are used.

Things you may want to look into:

The Vocabulary of Beginning Writers: Implications for Children with Complex Communication Needs

The effect of aided language stimulation on vocabulary acquisition in children with little or no functional speech

Added to site October 2014