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World of Words is a culmination of Susan B. Neuman’s career in early education and literacy. WOW has proven to be highly effective for children Pre-K – 2nd grade in over five separate trials. The WOW program and research have been presented widely at the most prominent education conferences and published in a wide number of highly respected journals.

The highest rate of vocabulary development occurs during the early childhood years — therefore, it represents a crucial time when we can be proactive in promoting children’s vocabulary development.

Effective vocabulary intervention can essentially erase reading difficulties later on. With effective instruction, children can go on to achieve grade level expectations in fourth grade and beyond.

The quantity, quality, and responsiveness of teacher talk can significantly improve children’s receptive and expressive vocabulary.

Gains in vocabulary development can predict growth in comprehension and later reading performance.

WHITE PAPER: The World of Words: A Shared-Book Reading Program to Promote Vocabulary
WHITE PAPER: The World of Words: A Shared-Book Reading Program to Promote Vocabulary
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World of Words is a research-based shared book reading that has proven to be highly effective for children at the preschool, kindergarten and first-grade level. Furthermore, it has been tested with great success with special populations such as English language learners and special education children. What we’ve learned through over five separate trials now is that our success is built on the systematic instructional sequence. You’ll find that children will not only learn many new words and concepts, they will build critical background knowledge about the ways in which the world works. Through these wonderful, motivating texts, you will build an exciting World of Words that will ensure children’s success in reading.


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How does early comprehension develop in young children, and how can we better prepare preschoolers to become successful readers? This important volume compiles today’s best research on the often-overlooked topic of prereader comprehension: what we know about it now, and what we need to know to build a stronger foundation for children’s future reading skills. More than two dozen literacy experts clearly describe theoretical models of early comprehension, demystify current research, recommend effective practices for boosting comprehension, and identify critical research priorities for the near future. An essential text and reference for reading specialists, program administrators, SLPs, preservice professionals, and researchers, this volume is key to helping children develop the early comprehension skills that support later reading success.


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View Dr. Neuman’s presentation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Atlanta, GA. November 16, 2017.


play_arrow Neuman, S. B., Newman, E. H., & Dwyer, J. (2011). Educational effects of a vocabulary intervention on preschoolers’ word knowledge and conceptual development: A cluster‐randomized trial. Reading Research Quarterly, 46(3), 249-272.

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the hypothesis that helping preschoolers learn words through categorization may enhance their ability to retain words and their conceptual properties, acting as a bootstrap for self-learning. We examined this hypothesis by investigating the effects of the World of Words instructional program, a supplemental intervention for children in preschool designed to teach word knowledge and conceptual development through taxonomic categorization and embedded multimedia. Participants in the study included 3- and 4-year-old children from 28 Head Start classrooms in 12 schools, randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Children were assessed on word knowledge, expressive language, conceptual knowledge, and categories and properties of concepts in a yearlong intervention. Results indicated that children receiving the WOW treatment consistently outperformed their control counterparts; further, treatment children were able to use categories to identify the meaning of novel words. Gains in word and categorical knowledge were sustained six months later for those children who remained in Head Start. These results suggest that a program targeted to learning words within taxonomic categories may act as a bootstrap for self-learning and inference generation. Download Full Article

play_arrow Neuman, S. B., Kaefer, T., & Pinkham, A. M. (2016). Improving low-income preschoolers’ word and world knowledge: The effects of content-rich instruction. The Elementary School Journal, 116(4), 652-674.

Abstract: This study examined the efficacy of a shared book reading approach to integrating literacy and science instruction. The purpose was to determine whether teaching science vocabulary using information text could improve low-income preschoolers’ word knowledge, conceptual development, and content knowledge in the life sciences. Teachers in 17 preschool classrooms and 268 children participated; nine classrooms were assigned to treatment, eight to control. The treatment group received a science-focused shared book-reading intervention, 4 days a week, 12–15 minutes daily for 12 weeks, while the control group continued with business as usual. Results indicated statistically and practically significant effects on children’s word, concepts, and content knowledge and knowledge of the information text genre compared to the control group. However, we recognize the potential confound of district with treatment condition as a major limitation of the study. Download Full Article

play_arrow Neuman, S. B., & Dwyer, J. (2011). Developing vocabulary and conceptual knowledge for low-income preschoolers: A design experiment. Journal of Literacy Research, 43(2), 103-129.

Abstract: The purpose of this design experiment was to research, test, and iteratively derive principles of word learning and word organization that could help to theoretically advance our understanding of vocabulary development for low-income preschoolers. Six Head Start teachers in morning and afternoon programs and their children (N = 89) were selected to participate in the World of Words, a 12-min daily supplemental vocabulary intervention; six classes (N = 89) served as a comparison group. Our questions addressed whether the difficulty of words influenced the acquisition and retention of words and whether learning words in taxonomies might support vocabulary development and inference generation. We addressed these questions in two design phases for a total intervention period of 16 weeks. Pre- and post-unit assessments measured children’s expressive language gains, categorical development, and inference generation. Significant differences were recorded between treatment and comparison groups on word knowledge and category development. Furthermore, children in the treatment group demonstrated the ability to infer beyond what was specifically taught. These results suggest that instructional design features may work to accelerate word learning for low-income children. Download Full Article

play_arrow Neuman, S. B., & Kaefer, T. (2013). Enhancing the intensity of vocabulary instruction for preschoolers at risk: The effects of group size on word knowledge and conceptual development. The Elementary School Journal, 113(4), 589-608.

Abstract: This study was designed to experimentally examine how supplemental vocabulary instruction, in either whole-group or small-group settings, influenced low income preschoolers’ word knowledge and conceptual development. Using a within-subject design, 108 preschool children from 12 Head Start classrooms participated in an 8-week intervention, which included four topics of targeted vocabulary instruction counterbalanced in either a whole-group or small-group configuration. Pre- and post-test measures examined children’s outcomes in word learning and in conceptual and categorical knowledge. Our results indicated that group size did not appear to be a powerful mechanism for intensifying instruction. Although children gained significantly in word knowledge, concepts, and categories, they did so regardless of whether they were in small or whole groups. Implications for these findings, as well as limitations of the research and directions for future research, are discussed. Download Full Article

play_arrow Neuman, S. B., & Dwyer, J. (2009). Missing in action: Vocabulary instruction in pre‐K. The reading teacher, 62(5), 384-392.

Abstract: Strategies that introduce young children to new words and entice them to engage in meaningful contexts through semantically related activities are much needed. Download Full Article

play_arrow Neuman, S. B., & Kaefer, T. (2018). Developing low-income children’s vocabulary and content knowledge through a shared book reading program. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 52, 15-24.

Abstract: This study examines the effects of a shared book intervention designed to improve low-income children’s oral language vocabulary and content knowledge in science. Classrooms (pre-K through grade 1) from 12 elementary schools in a large metropolitan area were randomly selected into treatment (N = 36) and control groups (N = 34). The year-long intervention involved children in read aloud books about science topics, using crosscutting concepts and vocabulary within taxonomic categories to build knowledge networks. Pre- and post-tests examined child outcomes in vocabulary, science concepts, language, and knowledge of the information genre. Results indicated that pre-K and kindergartners’ learned significantly more words and science concepts than controls. Growth for ELL students exceeded that of native English speakers. Standardized scores in language, however, remained largely flat. Download Full Article

play_arrow Neuman, S. B., Pinkham, A., & Kaefer, T. (2015). Supporting vocabulary teaching and learning in prekindergarten: The role of educative curriculum materials. Early Education and Development, 26(7), 988-1011.

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to support teachers’ child-directed language and student outcomes by enhancing the educative features of an intervention targeted to vocabulary, conceptual development and comprehension. Using a set of design heuristics (Davis & Krajcik, 2005), our goal was to support teachers’ professional development within the curriculum materials. Ten pre-K classrooms with a total of 143 children were randomly selected into treatment and control groups. Observations of teacher talk, including characteristics of lexically-rich and cognitively demanding language were conducted before and during the intervention. Measures of child outcomes, pre- and post-intervention included both standardized and curriculum-based assessments. Results indicated significant improvements in the quality of teachers’ talk in the treatment compared to the control group, and significant gains for child outcomes. These results suggest that educative curriculum may be a promising approach to facilitate both teacher and student learning. Download Full Article

play_arrow Booth, A. E. (2009). Causal supports for early word learning. Child development, 80(4), 1243-1250.

Abstract: What factors determine whether a young child will learn a new word? Although there are surely numerous contributors, the current investigation highlights the role of causal information. Three-year-old children (N = 36) were taught 6 new words for unfamiliar objects or animals. Items were described in terms of their causal or noncausal properties. When tested only minutes after training, no significant differences between the conditions were evident. However, when tested several days after training, children performed better on words trained in the causal condition. These results demonstrate that the well-documented effect of causal information on learning and categorization extends to word learning in young children. Download Full Article