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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fostering A Love For Reading: Part 5

Building Vocabulary

Photo by Samuel Mann

Maybe it sounds strange to say that building a child's vocabulary can help foster a love of reading in them. But consider this, vocabulary is one of the handful of essential skills a child must possess to be a successful reader. And if we want our children to enjoy reading, we must help them be good at it.

The great news is, building a child's vocab comes easy! Here's how:

1. Read! Yes, just read to your child. And while you're reading, define new words, and identify and discuss objects in the illustrations. Sometimes I'm tempted to breeze over specific objects on a page because I know my son doesn't know what it is yet. But then I realize that he will never know what it is if I don't tell him (DUH)!

And try not to over simplify things when you're reading. If you're going to take the time to identify objects in the book, you might as well identify them properly. You'll be surprised at how much your child can understand with your help. And you'll also be surprised at the big words they can say and remember!

2. Talk, talk, talk to your child. Explain what you just did, tell them what you are doing now, and explain what you're about to do next. Identify things around the house and at places you visit. Make up stories. Ask them questions.

I can tell you honestly that we (my husband and I) do these things (read and talk) with our son, and he has become quite the chatter box! We didn't really know he was such a chatter box till others (babysitters, friends, family) began telling us. I guess we assumed all kids his age jabbered all the time.

People ask us if he has more words (or talks more) than most children his age, and honestly, I don't know. I've read that a typical 20-month old has a vocab of 12-15 words, but that there are many that have larger vocabs than that. Isaac definitely has many more words than 12-15. And he's at that stage where he's surprising us every day with new words he's using. We love it... usually!

Something else helpful to remember when it comes to vocab: Books have much, much richer vocab than TV! And it's easier to talk more with your child when the TV isn't on, blaring and distracting you both from the opportunities to chat with one another.

A good vocabulary feeds right into another one of those necessary skills needed for reading success - fluency! Fluency is the ability to read quickly and easily. It's important for being a successful reader, because children who aren't fluent readers have a hard time understanding and appreciating what they're reading. All their mental energy is used up simply reading the words. And when you don't understand what you're reading, you don't enjoy reading, and you aren't motivated to do more of it.

Having a good vocabulary helps with fluency because children with large vocabs have a deep well of words in their brains to assist them in decoding, reading, and understanding the words they will come upon in books. Think about how much easier it is to read a book about a topic you are familiar with and enjoy (maybe a book about a favorite hobby) than it would be to read the manual for a complex piece of technical equipment full of words that you have never heard and have no idea what they mean.

So keep on doing what I hope you're already begun doing with your child. Fill their ears and minds with words, and give them the chance to use them!

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