This morning as I got my kindergartner ready for school, it hit me how much she is learning just through our conversations. The array of subjects covered is mind-boggling. Every day it is something new. Every few minutes, a fresh question, a new thought, a just-crafted knock-knock joke.
I have always believed that if you use a varied vocabulary in speaking with children, they will fill their mental storehouse with words they can use all of their lives. I have always loved words and language. I found a box of vocabulary words once when I was young and played a game of memorizing new words. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how many of those words stayed with me and served me well in my work.
When reading to young children, we sometimes avoid reading words we think our children will not grasp. They may not grasp the words immediately, but by context and with explanation, they are hearing the words and learning.
I have told my own children that if they ever encounter a word they don’t know, they should look it up immediately and try to use it in the next few days. After that, they own that word.
Both of our grandchildren, Peter and Max, are highly verbal. Peter is not yet three and has an astonishing vocabulary and way of using words. His parents read good books to him, and his vocabulary reflects that. Max is right behind him.
I have just begun reading Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham to Emily. It is rich language, somewhat above where her comprehension is. But we are taking our time. She loves the characters and gets the thrust of the story from my explanations for those things she doesn’t understand. She is hearing the language and learning so much.
Last week, I came across an article (Thanks Judi) that addresses the importance of explaining up, rather than dumbing down what we read to children. Literacy begins at home in the earliest months of a child’s life. Conversation laced with evocative and descriptive language and good children’s literature all serve to increase a child’s vocabulary and understanding.
Here is the article, Explain Up, Don’t Dumb Down: Why Little Kids Need Big Words
Here is Emmy from last May. I came into her bedroom to find her “reading” to her friends. And yes, I cannot believe how she has grown this last year!