I learned in one of my university education classes that the best way to develop a richer vocabulary is to read voraciously. The problem is that not every child is a voracious reader, and even if they are, it’s possible to completely misconstrue the meaning of a word you read. For instance, as a very early reader, I remember seeing the word “frequent” in a book I was reading, but since I only knew the word “often” in spoken language, I assumed that frequent must mean “seldom.” Fortunately, I figured out my mistake quickly!
Another problem with learning words from reading is that you don’t know how to pronounce them. Several favorite examples: “my-zzled” for misled, “orry” for awry, and — to my humiliation — one Sunday in church when I was seven or so, the minister asked if we knew what special day it was, and having seen the word in the bulletin, I shouted out, “epifanny!” (epiphany).
So, how can a parent encourage children to expand their vocabulary — and possibly the parent’s as well?
With a little effort, this can be done in a way that does not involve direct instruction or extra homework. I recently saw an ad for a “Story-Tellers Word a Day,” in which 180 words are introduced, one per page, with allegedly “hilarious” illustrations. The ad suggests putting it on the breakfast table, so the family (when they eat together) can learn new words together. It’s a little pricey ($24.95), but I can see this being fun, and particularly beneficial if each family member thinks of an example sentence and consciously uses the word regularly. Find it here.
A similar, less expensive book, highly recommended by teachers and perhaps more appropriate for older kids (middle through high school) is called Vocabulary Cartoons: Kids Learn a Word a Minute and Never Forget It. Here’s a link.
If your family enjoys board games, teachers and other families recommend
• 5-Second Rule – Junior (ages 6+);
• Wordplay for Kids (ages 6+, includes spelling);
• Blurt! (any age — cards have easy side and harder side).
More vocabulary building suggestions can be found at Wordcounter.
Parents wisely encourage their kids to save money. Another good investment, however, is to help them make deposits in their “word banks.” There is so much to be gained: better reading comprehension, ability to be more precise in language, and more well-developed thinking skills.