By Allison Bell Bern, SchoolReady
Vocabulary is becoming a hot topic. Schools are focusing their discussions about how to teach it to students, and more and more parents are coming to understand the huge advantages that come with having a robust vocabulary. Vocabulary is, in fact, considered by some to be the number one predictor of academic achievement and is also strongly correlated with future earning potential.
The good news for parents when it comes to vocabulary and their children? The best thing they can do is to keep doing what they’ve been enjoying doing all along: reading books with their children. That’s right: grab an old book, a new book, a red book, a blue book (it doesn’t necessarily matter: if you show enthusiasm for a book, chances are your kid will, too, at least for one read-through), cuddle up, and let the learning commence.
It’s almost magic, it works so well. Children hear a new word in context a few times and, before their parents know it, they’ve adopted it as their own. (Sometimes it takes as little as one exposure to a new word; sometimes up to 12 exposures may be required.) Outside of conversation, reading aloud is the primary way that parents teach their children new words.
Conversation and reading as “vocabulary instruction techniques” – to be overly technical about it – are often referred to as “indirect instruction,” and they’re how children learn 90% of the 3-4,000 words they learn every year. Consider that children who average 25 minutes of daily reading are exposed to 20,000 unfamiliar words per year, and it’s no wonder these children have a major academic advantage over their less-literary peers.
Repeated and diverse exposure to new words is at the heart of why reading is so good for building vocabulary. “Knowing” a word can mean many things (we have reading, writing, speaking, and listening vocabularies), but the bottom line is that the more a child can see, hear, experience, and him use a word, the more likely he will be to understand that word fully. Engagement is also an important part of why reading is so beneficial: the more interested, or engaged, a child is in the source of the new word, the more likely she will be to pay attention and fully absorb its meaning. In other words, the more she likes the book, the more she learns!
Many Reasons to Read
There are, of course, a variety of benefits to reading to your child. Outside of teaching vocabulary, reading is an important exercise in developing thinking and analyzing skills. Outside of learning benefits, even, are the recreational and emotional ones: reading time is a great time for parents to connect with their children as they snuggle up to enjoy a favorite story.
Just in case you needed another reason to read, though, consider the above. Reading is a powerful vocabulary-building tool, and vocabulary itself is a powerful tool in its own right. Parents are wise to consider vocabulary on the list of reasons they read to their children.
Allison Bell Bern is a mother and the Creative Director of SchoolReady, creator of a new series of fun children’s books that teach essential academic vocabulary. She is a former educator and author of the SchoolReady blog, “Getting Our Children SchoolReady,” where you can go for interesting and useful education-related information and activities. More at schoolreadybooks.com.