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February 18, 2022 2 min read

Since the purpose of reading is to understand the meaning of text, it is essential for readers to build their vocabulary. As children learn more words, they are able to read more varied and difficult books which in turn will expose them to more sophisticated and complex words and texts and so on and so on. It is a cycle that builds upon itself. 

Tips for building vocabulary:

  • Engage in conversations using specific and descriptive language: Talk to kids about everything they are doing, feeling, and seeing throughout the day as they go through their routines and activities. It’s as if you are providing a running commentary and it may feel uncomfortable and silly at first, but before you know it, it will become second nature. 
  • Don't be afraid to use “big” words!:  Challenge yourself to think of other words besides generic terms such as happy or cold. You can also keep track of the new words they learn by writing them on a poster board or in a notebook.  Word a Day Calendars are another fun way to introduce challenging words in a visual way.  
  • Use “kid-friendly” definitions and make connections between the new word and their own experiences:  For example, you could say something like, “Ecstatic'' means you feel really, really happy like the way you felt when you got to go to the amusement park with your friends.
  • Try new things together:  Take your child to a museum, go to the zoo or try cooking together and talk to them about what you are doing. It will expose them to new experiences and words.
  • Check for understanding:  If you are unsure if your child knows what a word means, ask them to tell you what they think it meansin their own words.  Being able to explain the definition of a word using their own words shows better understanding then simply reciting a definition out of the dictionary or off the internet.  Another way to check for understanding is to have them use it in a sentence. You can also get them to act it out or draw what it means.
  • Play games:  Word games like crosswords, Twenty Questions, Charades, Scrabble, Wordle, I Spy, We are Going on a Picnic and other story building games, are all fun ways to expand vocabulary.
  • Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!: When a new word is introduced, repeat it as often as possible and try to use it as many times as possible in conversations. Repeated exposure will help them remember the new words.
  • READ: The more you read the more opportunities you will have to introduce new words in a natural way. Talk and ask questions about what happens in the story. Reading aloud to your child or listening to audiobooks is an excellent way to expose them to a richer vocabulary.

Any questions?  Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com.  Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.