Thursday, April 16, 2009


"When mothers frequently spoke to their infants, their children learned almost 300 more words by the age of 2 than did their peers whose mothers rarely spoke to them."
-Hare, B. & Risley, T.R., 1995. Meaningfull Differences in the everyday experiences of young American children.

Vocabulary "Learn New Words"
knowing the meaning of words and connecting the words to objects, events, or concepts in the world. (Words we must know to communicate effectively.)
  • Oral Vocabulary are the words we use in speaking or recognize when listening
  • Reading Vocabulary are the words we recognize or use in print
While developing vocabulary, children are also developing world knowledge, which is an understanding of how the world works and what is in the world.

Vocabulary is important to Reading Comprehension. Children use the words they know to make sense of the words they see in print. They cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean.

When children have more vocabulary, they can more easily make prediction about the words they are reading (Decoding), and apply their knowledge of the world as they try to understand what they are reading (Reading Comprehension).
  • Babies usually begin babbling by 6 months
  • Some babies say recognizable words by 12 months
  • It's estimated that from about 2 years of age on, a child learns approximately 9 - 12 words each day.
  • 3 year old children need to physically touch or explore something in order to learn the words that go along with the object or experience.
  • 4 - 5 year old children use their real life experiences to bring background knowledge to what they encounter in books. The real world and the world of books build on each other, so that their vocabulary grows even faster.
  • When children are very young, they may use a single word for all related objects. ("truck" may be used for all vehicles even bikes).
  • Children may combine two words together to create a word to describe a concept (saying "last day" for "yesterday").
Vocabulary in Storytime:
  • Talk about the meaning of words with children as they come up in books or conversation. "It's funny--the word 'flower' means two things. It can mean the pretty flowers growing outside in the garden. Or it can mean the white stuff people use to make cookies or bread." Children don't need to know that the two words are spelled differently, but understanding that there are two meanings to a word will enhance their understanding of words and the world.
  • Model you won interest in words. Don't dumb down you conversations with children.
  • Help children learn about the world by reading both fiction and informational books, especially about interesting places such as the zoo, park, or animal hospital.
  • Encourage children's interest in new words by asking questions like, "What is that?" "What do you use that for?" "What does that mean?"
Vocabulary Comments for Adults at Storytime:
  • "Did you know that hearing language actually changes the structure of babies' brains? Language builds more connections between neurons in the brain. So the more you talk with your baby, the more connections she will have in her brain."
  • "Toddlers understand many more words than they say, so be sure to talk to them using rich language."
  • "Books are a source of rich vocabulary that we may seldom use in everyday conversation. When you read to your child, you are building the vocabulary that will help her later when she's sounding out words, learning to read."
  • "Next time you're at the grocery store, take a moment to talk with your child about the names of different vegetables and fruits. You can also talk about the shapes and colors. These conversations help build vocabulary - one of the six early literacy skills. You can also encourage this activity at the park, at a construction site, working in the garden with plants and tools, all day long!"


What Can We Do for Vocabulary?
  • Words on sticks or for the flannel board
  • Pictures on sticks or for flannel board
  • Lots and lots of stuff (props, puppets, toys) and pictures of stuff to play with
  • Props for guessing games
What Can Parents and Caregivers Do?
  • Read different types of books; books are rich in vocabulary that may not be used in regular conversation
  • Ask lots of questions when talking and reading to the child
  • Talk, talk, talk to the child
Suggested Books:
  • Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry
  • Dinosaur Roar! by Paul Stickland
  • A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
  • Napping House by Audrey Wood
  • I Love Bugs! by Philemon Sturges
  • Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor
  • In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

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