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This study explores how children learn the meaning (semantics) and spelling patterns (orthography) of novel words encountered in story context. English-speaking children (N = 88) aged 7 to 8 years read 8 stories and each story contained 1 novel word repeated 4 times. Semantic cues were provided by the story context such that children could infer the meaning of the word (specific context) or the category that the word belonged to (general context). Following story reading, posttests indicated that children showed reliable semantic and orthographic learning. Decoding was the strongest predictor of orthographic learning, indicating that self-teaching via phonological recoding was important for this aspect of word learning. In contrast, oral vocabulary emerged as the strongest predictor of semantic learning. © 2011 Society for the Scientific Study of Reading.

Original publication




Journal article


Scientific Studies of Reading

Publication Date





47 - 70