Vocabulary means knowing the names of things. Children need to develop a large vocabulary before they start reading so they will be able to sound out unfamiliar words. Think of it this way – each time your child learns or hears a word, they add it to their mental database. When a child reaches a new word when learning to read, if it’s not already in their “database,” they have almost no chance of figuring it out.
We all know many more words than we ever speak in normal conversation. The more words your child knows, the better they’ll be able to figure out new words when reading. You can encourage your child's vocabulary in many different ways.
- Talk to and read with your child often.
- If you come across a word your child doesn’t know while reading, explain it rather than replacing it with a familiar word.
- Labeling feelings as well as objects will help your child express him or herself and will decrease unnecessary frustration.
- Reading non-fiction will introduce your child to many unfamiliar words.
Check out this list of suggested books for developing vocabulary skills.
Tip: If you are more fluent in a language other than English, it is important that you talk to your child in your fluent language. This way your child will hear language spoken fluently and you will be able to explain things to your child more easily than you may be able to in English. That way when your child goes to school he or she already has the concepts down and simply needs to learn the English translation, rather than learning the concept and the English word at the same time. Check out our Spanish and Somali bilingual books to help you get started!