Jul 122013

Does your child have a big vocabulary?  Did you know having a good vocabulary is shown by research to be a critical skill for enabling a child to read?

The National Reading Panel has concluded that Vocabulary is one of the critical elements in a child’s ability to read. Having a robust vocabulary will improve a child’s reading decoding skills, reading comprehension level, and his ability to read fluently. Helping a child increase the size of his usable vocabulary cannot be underestimated in its ability to improve a child’s reading level.

The words your child knows and can use in order to communicate or read are defined as his vocabulary. By increasing the size of your child’s vocabulary, you can effectively increase the level at which your child is capable of reading, writing, and speaking.

The NRP says “Children learn the meanings of most words indirectly, through everyday experiences with oral and written language.” Children learn the words through everyday conversation with peers, adults, through shows they watch, and through listening to books that are read aloud.

Therefore, one of the easiest ways to increase your child’s vocabulary is to read aloud to him on a daily basis. You can also use new, unfamiliar words in conversations with your child. Children learn new words best when the words are used in context, so using new words appropriately and purposefully in conversation will help convey meaning, pronunciation, and will expand your child’s vocabulary.

“Specific word instruction, or teaching individual words, can deepen students’ knowledge of word meanings. In-depth knowledge of word meanings can help students understand what they are hearing or reading. It also can help them use words accurately in speaking and writing.” With this, the NRP conveys the importance of specifically teaching vocabulary in addition to building vocabulary through everyday activities.

To explicitly teach vocabulary, it is helpful to teach a child specific skills related to determining the meaning of a word. Necessary skills include familiarity with reference books (dictionaries, thesaurus’) and learning how to break words into parts and determine the meanings of the pieces (prefixes, roots, and suffixes). Repeated, purposeful exposure to new words will help a child gain familiarity with the word and will help him incorporate the word into his everyday vocabulary for speaking and writing.

You can explicitly help your child build his vocabulary through word studies, word games, and using vocabulary words related to new areas of study. You can help build vocabulary through a daily visit to our vocabulary fun page too.

A great software based program for building vocabulary is the Wordsmart Vocabulary Software. We have several of our home schooling friends with learning difficulties that particularly like this program. This fun vocabulary software has engaging games that provide children with the learning tools that can enhance vocabulary at a fast pace. Wordsmart Vocabulary Software works much faster than traditional vocabulary building methods – words are presented in an optimal order for faster acquisition. Word Smart publishes vocabulary activities, math games, and word games, all of which are fun, engaging ways to reach your child with critical vocabulary skills.

One of our favorites for building vocabulary is the **Critical Thinking Company‘s Word Roots software program. This software program is an award winning, easy to use, easy to understand program that teaches Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, suffixes, and their meanings. The programs can be purchased as texts or as computer based software games. The computer based games make this an ideal program for any child with a visual learning style. Even though my son has significant dyslexia, he loves learning the Greek and Latin roots, and finds the software fun to play with.

Another great teaching tool we’ve used is the **Spectrum Word Study and Phonics workbooks offered by McGraw-Hill. This set of workbooks is good for teaching word structure, some basic decoding skills, and vocabulary. The books are a good high-level reinforcement of word learning, but won’t provide sufficient depth for a child with a specific learning disability when used as an only program. For any child who can remember and recall with minimal practice, the series is excellent, and it serves well as a reinforcement activity for children who require more in depth practice of skills.