Audio-enhanced storybooks can improve vocabulary of at-risk preschoolers

MU researcher develops interactive strategy to help youth with limited vocabularies.

April 9, 2021


Brian Consiglio: One of the biggest skills children learn in preschool and kindergarten is developing their understanding of various words and what they mean. Research has shown preschoolers’ vocabulary knowledge is strongly tied with their future reading comprehension, and children with strong language skills tend to have better academic success as well.

To help youth with limited vocabularies, MU assistant professor and speech pathologist Elizabeth Kelley developed story friends, an audio-based intervention program designed to improve the vocabulary knowledge of at-risk preschoolers. In her study, the program was implemented in select preschool classrooms in Missouri and Florida, where the students listened to audio recordings as they followed along in storybooks that had embedded vocabulary lessons within the stories.

Kelley: “They were excited about those books, they were engaged and interested and wanted to listen to the stories and lift the flaps and follow along, so it was a fun way for them to learn some words that were pretty challenging for them.”

Consiglio: The audio-enhanced storybooks helped the preschoolers learn common, yet challenging words such as ‘disappointed,’ ‘enormous,’ ‘brave’ and ‘protect.’ While the preschoolers may only be four or five years old currently, Kelley is setting them up for success later on by teaching them the vocabulary words they will need to know when they eventually enter elementary or middle school.

Kelley: “Our goal is to give kids the language skills they need to be successful in school. We want kids to begin school with a really strong vocabulary because we know that will help them in school success, it will help them in learning to read and it will help them in their long term academic achievement.”

Consiglio: For more on this research, visit

I’m Brian Consiglio, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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