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Boosting Your Child’s Vocabulary

Many parents ask for guidance on how to enrich their child’s vocabulary, both in speaking and writing. Most words in a child’s vocabulary come from everyday encounters with language. Therefore you can help shape these encounters by broadening their exposure to a wide variety of words. There are several ways to facilitate this.

Of course the main way for your child to improve her vocabulary is to read. The more words she is exposed to, the better her vocabulary will be. When choosing books, encourage your child to pick books with descriptive passages. It also would help to choose a wide variety of book genres so as to further expand the opportunity to learn new words. In addition to independent reading, much can also be done by reading aloud to your child. You can pick a book to read aloud that is above your child’s reading level and therefore most likely has more complicated words. When reading aloud, be sure to point out some particularly wonderful words and define them as needed.

Another easy way to boost your child’s vocabulary is to model using great words yourself. As parents, we often fall into the habit of “dumbing down” our language when speaking to children. Instead, use creative, descriptive words when talking to your child. Don’t be afraid to speak to them at a level higher than their speaking level. Encourage them to ask for clarification if you use a word they don’t understand.

Another helpful activity is to get your child to create a “Great Words” notebook. He can decorate the notebook and add to it exciting words he comes across in his reading, conversations, or any other place. You can encourage your child to look up the word in the dictionary and write a simple definition into the notebook as well. Remind your child to use the “Great Words” notebook when doing his own writing.

Take advantage of holidays and other celebrations to teach specific vocabulary words. Have your child create a poster for each celebration as it comes up throughout the year. Make it fun by having your child draw, cut out magazine photos, or print from the computer certain related images. Then help your child come up with a list of words that pertain to the holiday. Don’t limit it just to nouns, think of verbs and adjectives that relate as well. Hang up the poster in a prominent spot in your house for several weeks and use the new words often. Similar posters could also be made for particular topics of interest your child has. If your child is on a planets kick, why not work together to create a vocabulary-rich planets poster?

What kid doesn’t like to play games? There are plenty of fun word board games out there such as Scrabble and Boggle. You can also have a family game of charades where you act out vocabulary words. There are an amazing assortment of vocabulary games to play on the computer as well.

Does it work? My granddaughter Grace, who is only 3 1/2 years old, startled me the other day. I was reading a book to her about “monsters.” I asked her if she knew what a monster was. “Yes,” she answered, “it’s something like a Yeti.” Bravo for my daughter and son-in-law for following many of the suggestions here.

With your guidance and encouragement, your child can make great strides in her vocabulary development. Every day affords another opportunity to learn and use new words!

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