From Bibliophile to Sesquipedalian: Modeling the Role of Reading Experience in Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension

Sanne W. van der Kleij*, Adrian P. Burgess, Jessie Ricketts, Laura R. Shapiro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the roles of leisure reading and word reading ability in vocabulary and reading comprehension development in 598 adolescents at ages 10, 11, and 12 (285 girls, 313 boys).

Structural equation modeling was used to test whether word reading was associated with vocabulary and reading comprehension: a) directly; b) indirectly via leisure reading; or c) both.

We found both direct and indirect effects of word reading on vocabulary: word reading ability directly predicted outcomes, and also predicted the amount of leisure reading, which in turn predicted vocabulary. For reading comprehension we observed direct but not indirect effects of word reading. As expected, vocabulary and reading comprehension outcomes were strongly correlated.

Our findings demonstrate the direct effect of word reading ability in predicting vocabulary and reading comprehension, and reveal a crucial mediating role of leisure reading in the development of vocabulary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-526
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Studies of Reading
Issue number6
Early online date26 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Education


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