Vocabulary for Kids: Fun Ways to Build Your Child's Word Bank
Vocabulary helps us clearly express ourselves and communicate new ideas about the world. According to Oxford Dictionaries, it is estimated that English has more words than most comparable world languages and children learn new words every single day. In fact, the average high school student has a vocabulary size of about 45,000 words. Building your child's vocabulary from an early age is key to help them get ahead with their reading and achieve success.
Vocabulary are the words children know and can use to communicate about the world around them. It requires an understanding of the meaning of a word, but also how to use it appropriately, in the right conversation, with the right person, at the right time.
Oral Language and Spoken Vocabulary
Children have an oral or spoken vocabulary they use to talk with others, and a written vocabulary which are the words they can read, understand, and use in their writing. Oral vocabulary is one of the first building blocks and is linked to children's thinking skills (cognition). From birth, they learn to distinguish different sounds and by interacting with others they learn to use language.
You can intentionally build your child's spoken vocabulary through modelling good talking and listening skills. You can model to help them extend single words into sentence; e.g., “Yum! Yes, chicken and vegetable risotto is yum.”
You can also intentionally teach new words in context; e.g., at dinner time when you're recalling your day together or planning for tomorrow, model new words. Instead of delicious, try scrumptious or for tired, you could introduce exhausted.
Teaching your child the names for new objects, feelings and sensations, helps build their oral vocabulary. When they begin to read, they will make connections to new words. In this way, we say vocabulary knowledge is cumulative. The more words you know, the easier it is to learn more words.
Five Elements of Reading
Scientific research demonstrates there are five elements in learning to read; developing phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. All five elements work together to give children the skills and strategies to read increasingly complex texts. The research says all five elements need to be taught but that some elements, like vocabulary acquisition can be developed long before children are ever formally taught to read and that's why oral language skills are so important.
Much vocabulary acquisition comes from reading a wide variety of texts, and storybooks are one of the most powerful means to expand vocabulary. In fact, research tells us books give children the exposure to a more extensive vocabulary than speech can. Going to your local library to get new books to read ensures you're exposing your child to rich and varied vocabulary opportunities. Be sure to grab fiction and nonfiction books!
Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension
There is a strong relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. Early vocabulary acquisition has been demonstrated to be particularly important because of its relationship to subsequent reading progress. There is evidence that improving vocabulary before age six is very highly associated with literacy success in late primary school and even into mid secondary school.
Consider this scenario to comprehend this sentence: Who enjoyed the sandwich more: Dinh who gobbled it or Kali who nibbled it? We need knowledge about these two verbs to clearly imagine Dinh and Kali eating. We might know both are synonyms for eating but a good reader with a wider vocabulary can connect to the meaning and comprehend the sentence. For children, as they move into school, reading comprehension becomes part of every subject from science to sport and so it is key to build a rich vocabulary across subjects to help them.
Try these at-home vocabulary ideas to boost vocabulary acquisition.