Vocabulary is a building block of speaking and
reading. The more words children know when they sit down to read independently,
the more successful they will be at that task.
Parents are in a key position to help children with
their vocabulary. After all, parents have been speaking to their children for
five years before they ever enter kindergarten. Thatís a lot words!
Four types of vocabulary
There are four types of vocabulary that we commonly
use. I will refer to these in the order that children usually learn them:
First, we learn a listening vocabulary.
These are words that children understand through hearing. They are highly
contextualized, so that apple juice, for example, is talked about while the
child is drinking or looking at it.
Second, children develop a speaking vocabulary.
They begin to use words that they have heard others speak. This points out the
importance of their being exposed to a rich and extensive vocabulary from the
adults in their lives. After all, how can children speak words that they have
not heard spoken?
Third is a reading vocabulary. When
children read, they must be able to make sense of the words on the paper. The
only way that this can happen is if they have heard and spoken the words before.
A child who has seen and used a map will be able to sound out m-a-p, say "map,"
and know what it means because she knows what a map is, whereas a child who has
never seen or used one may be able to figure out that m-a-p spells "map," but
this is a sound that makes no sense to her.
Finally, children enjoy developing their writing
vocabulary. This most frequently happens after they have seen the word
in print. Not only that, but children become savvy in learning where to find
these words in their environment. A child who wants to write "milk," but doesnít
know how to spell it, realizes that all he needs to do is walk to the
refrigerator and find the proper container.
Parents who understand their role in this process will
become effective teachers of vocabulary before their children ever set foot in