Encouraging Your Child's Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension Skills

The data is irrefutable; your child's success in grade school, high school, college and later in his or her career is dependent almost entirely on vocabulary.

Words are how we communicate; words are what we use to comprehend new information and words are what we use to communicate our understanding of new information; and finally words are what we use to communicate our ideas.

Words are our tools of thought. Without these tools we are limited in our abilities. With these tools, we have no limitations.

Make sure your child has the requisite tools for success in grade school and beyond. There are a number of ways you can encourage your child's vocabulary development, but the most important and effective is through reading and comprehension.

The Importance of Reading AND Comprehension

The bottom line is that reading is still the best way for your child to develop his or her vocabulary. The secret to success is making sure your child is comprehending what he or she is reading. Too often children think reading is simply reading aloud the words they see on a page. This is reading, but not necessarily comprehension.

Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension (Grades 1st through 3rd)

Your responsibilities for assisting your child's reading and comprehension will change as they progress through grade school. Initially, you will read to your child as well as having your child read back to you. As you do this, be sure to stop and evaluate words. Ask your child what different words mean. This will get your child in the habit of making sure they think of word definitions and meaning in addition to pronunciation. Taking note of word meaning is critical to helping your child develop his or her reading comprehension skills.

Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension (4th through 6th)

As your child starts to read more advanced books (4th through 6th) you can help your child immensely by skimming through the book and looking for advanced vocabulary words. Highlight words that you think might be more challenging for your child. Encourage your child to look up these words; also you should be available as a resource for word definitions. Encourage your child to come to you when they don't know a word's meaning.

Encourage your child to get in the habit of highlighting words that are new to them. Then go back through the books they are reading and see what words they highlighted. Try to use these words with your child to help them fully assimilate the word into their active vocabulary. Also, if you find a word that you think is challenging, but is not highlighted; ask your child what the word means.

Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension (7th and 8th)

When your child enters junior high (grades 7th and 8th), they will start reading some of the literary classics. If you really want to help your child, you should reread these books too. There is a reason they are enduring classics and remain on curriculums for decades; they are great books! You will find that you have forgotten many of the nuances that made these books classics. Often, you will find it's like reading the book for the first time.

As you read the books with your child, encourage your child to discuss the book. Many eighth grade reading lists include thought-provoking books like To Kill a Mocking Bird; Animal Farm and Of Mice of Men. There are profound life lessons and issues in these books that will help your child to grow and develop. Rethinking and evaluating these lessons and ideas will also help you to grow.

Of course, be sure to continue to identify challenging words and quiz your child. Also, continue to encourage them to use you as a word resource. If you don't know a word's meaning, the two of you should look it up together and grow together.

There is a website that I would encourage you to visit as your child starts to read more advanced literature. The Vocabulary University has a list of difficult words that appear in the most commonly read books in junior high through college. They have developed comprehensive word lists for each of these books that help prepare you for difficult words that you will encounter in each chapter. Here is a link to this site http://vocabulary.com/classic.html

Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension Summary

You probably noticed the one common aspect of each of the above lessons. In order to help your child, you need to be actively involved in your child's reading and use their school lessons to further challenge their vocabulary development. By taking extra steps to help your child build his or her vocabulary while reading for school, you will provide your child with the tools needed for academic and career success. Remember words are our tools for thought; the more words your child learns, the more tools he or she will have to achieve great things.