Vocabulary plays an important part in learning to read. Beginning readers must use the words they hear orally to make sense of the words they see in print.
There are four types of vocabulary:
- Listening vocabulary: the words we need to know to understand what we hear
- Speaking vocabulary: the words we use when we speak
- Reading vocabulary: the words we need to know to understand what we read
- Writing vocabulary: the words we use in writing
Consider, for example, what happens when a beginning reader comes to the word dig in a book. As they begin to figure out the sounds represented by the letters d, i, and g, the reader recognises that the sounds make up a very familiar word that she has heard and said many times. It is harder for a beginning reader to figure out words that are not already part of their speaking (oral) vocabulary.
Vocabulary is also very important to reading comprehension. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. As children learn to read more advanced texts, they must learn the meaning of new words that are not part of their oral vocabulary.
How can I help to develop my child's vocabulary?
All parents want their child to do well in school. One way to help your child is to help them build their vocabulary. Beginning readers use knowledge about words to help them make sense of what they're reading. The more words a reader knows, the more they are able to comprehend what they're reading or listening to.
Talking to and reading with your child are two terrific ways to help them hear and read new words. Conversations and questions about interesting words ("The book says, 'The boy tumbled down the hill,' and look at the picture! How do you think he went down the hill?") are easy, non-threatening ways to get new words into everyday talk.
Sharing a new word with your child doesn't have to take a long time: just a few minutes to talk about the word and then focus back on the book or conversation. Choose which words to talk about carefully — choosing every new word might make reading seem like a chore. The best words to explore with your child are ones that are common among adult speakers but are less common to see in the books your child might read.
First, provide a simple, child-friendly definition for the new word:
Enormous means that something is really, really big.
Second, provide a simple, child-friendly example that makes sense within their daily life:
Remember that really big watermelon we got at the grocery store? That was an enormous watermelon!
Third, encourage your child to develop their own example:
What enormous thing can you think of? Can you think of something really big that you saw today? That's right! The bulldozer near the park was enormous! Those tires were huge.
Lastly, keep your new words active within your house.
Over the next few days and weeks, take advantage of opportunities to use each new vocabulary word in conversation.
Take the time to share new words and build your child's vocabulary. You'll be enormously glad you did!