Becoming "Word Smart"
In addition to learning the alphabet and how books work, the path to reading and writing begins with talking! Research has revealed that there is a direct relationship between reading achievement and a child's level of vocabulary. When children learn to read, they draw upon the words they know and hear to make sense of the words they read.
When your child learns a new word, it isn't simply added to her list of known words. Each new word adjusts and refines the meaning and use of these known words. Although research is still exploring just how children develop such a large vocabulary, we know that children need an environment rich in language, filled with lots of words and talk. The type of talk, however, needs to be robust and engaging. Here are a few ideas about how to have rich talk time in your home:
- Establish a "talk time." While riding the bus, preparing breakfast, or during his bath, talk about topics important to your child. These will more than likely be stories about everyday life such as what someone did at school. Listen carefully, and try to use new words in your conversation.
- Read fiction and nonfiction books. Books are a wealth of new words. In addition to reading favorite stories, be sure to share informational children's books. Discussing the book together is also important.
- Play pretend. The talk that happens during playtime tends to be filled with very imaginative exchanges. This is a time to not only use new words but to think creatively about how we use language. The idea of a pink and purple peanut butter pie tends to only come up during playtime.
- Use rare words. Our talk with children is often filled with very common words such as "yes," "go," "wait," and "almost." We need to make sure our conversations are also filled with less common words such as "hurricane," "fortunate," "gloomy," and even "diesel gas."
Remember, a child's vocabulary grows quickly during the preschool and grade school years, although the rate of growth varies among children. Have fun and get talking!