Can Inferencing Be Trained in Preschoolers Using Shared Book-Reading? A Randomised Controlled Trial of Parents' Inference-Eliciting Questions on Oral Inferencing Ability

J Child Lang. 2020 May;47(3):655-679. doi: 10.1017/S0305000919000801. Epub 2019 Dec 20.

Abstract

The ability to make inferences is essential for effective language comprehension. While inferencing training benefits reading comprehension in school-aged children (see Elleman, 2017, for a review), we do not yet know whether it is beneficial to support the development of these skills prior to school entry. In a pre-registered randomised controlled trial, we evaluated the efficacy of a parent-delivered intervention intended to promote four-year-olds' oral inferencing skills during shared book-reading. One hundred children from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds were randomly assigned to inferencing training or an active control condition of daily maths activities. The training was found to have no effect on inferencing. However, inferencing measures were highly correlated with children's baseline language ability. This suggests that a more effective approach to scaffolding inferencing in the preschool years might be to focus on promoting vocabulary to develop richer and stronger semantic networks.

Keywords: inferencing; language intervention; oral language; randomised controlled trial; shared book-reading.