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10 Ways to Help Your Child Learn Vocabulary Words, Part I


Missouri’s public school students study some form of vocabulary at all grade levels and in a variety of subjects, including spelling, reading, science, and history.

Studying new vocabulary is important for student success in reading, but also in overall achievement. In fact, a professional paper published by Scholastic and written by Dr. Nell Duke of Michigan State University says that children with stronger vocabularies achieve more in school than their peers with weaker vocabularies:

“Research clearly indicates that children with larger vocabularies have higher school achievement in general (Smith, 1941, cited in Beck, McKeown, and Kucan, 2002) and higher reading achievement in particular (Anderson and Freebody, 1981; Graves, 1986; Stahl, 1998).”

Vocabulary is incredibly important for Missouri’s public school students, and you can help your child at home in a number of ways. This is the first in a five-part series of tips, games, activities and resources for Missouri parents to use at home to help improve vocabulary learning.

“Between grades 1 and 3, it is estimated that economically disadvantaged students' vocabularies increase by about 3,000 words per year and middle-class students' vocabularies increase by about 5,000 words per year.”
-Big Ideas in Beginning Reading

Note: Because of Missouri’s high rate of child poverty (22%), MO Parent has focused this series on free and inexpensive resources for parents.

1. Read to Your Children Every Day
It’s never too early or too late to spend time reading with your kids. The Children’s Reading Foundation recommends reading aloud with young children for 20 minutes each day:

“Just 20 minutes a day reading aloudwith young childrenstrengthens relationships, encourages listening and language skills, promotes attention and curiosity, andestablishes a strongreading foundation.”

Even at a very young age, reading to your child helps prepare them to read on their own.

“From birth to age five, the pleasant activity of listening to and talking aboutstories trains a child's brain, ears, and eyes foreventual success in learning to read,” according to The Children’s Reading Foundation.

If you’re new to reading aloud to your kids, you may not know how to make the most of your time reading together. The national multimedia literacy initiative Reading Rockets suggests that while reading to your child that you talk with your child about the story you’re reading and the words the story uses.

“When the book contains a new or interesting word, pause and define the word for your child. After you’re done reading, engage your child in a conversation about the book.” 

There are many ways that you can talk with your child about the book you’ve read together. A few of those include asking your child about the characters in the story, asking about the order of events in the story, or asking them what their favorite part of the story was.

Reading together shouldn’t stop when your child has become literate. Older kids benefit from both reading aloud (to you) and being read aloud to (by you). Try taking turns reading sections of a story to each other, or have your child read short articles (example: a story in the local newspaper) to you.

When you read aloud to your older children, keep in mind that because a child’s listening skills are usually a little bit more advance than his reading skills, you can read books aloud that are a year or two ahead of your child’s current reading level.

“A child's reading level doesn't catch up to his listening level until eighth grade. You can and should be reading seventh-grade books to fifth-grade kids. They'll get excited about the plot and this will be a motivation to keep reading. A fifth-grader can enjoy a more complicated plot than she can read herself, and reading aloud is really going to hook her, because when you get to chapter books, you're getting into the real meat of print – there is really complicated, serious stuff going on that kids are ready to hear and understand, even if they can't read at that level yet.”
-Jim Trelease, in an interview for GreatSchools.org

Reading together is a good supplement to your child’s Missouri public school education, but it’s also a great way to spend quality time with your kids. Remember; just 20 minutes a day is all it takes to help build critical vocabulary skills that will help your child’s overall academic success.


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