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Early Literacy Spotlight: Learning New Words

Strong vocabularies build strong readers.

by Jane Girondo, FCPL Early Literacy Services Assistant

Establishing Familiarity and Recognition

Continually learning new words and concepts ensures children develop strong vocabularies. As explained by Susan B. Neuman in her article “Early Literacy: Building Vocabulary to Build Literacy,” children who are familiar with many words find it easier to read because they can recognize those words in print. As children begin to sound out words, it is easier to figure out their meanings if the young readers are already acquainted with a lot of different words.

Read Aloud to Introduce New Words

Jim Trelease, a renowned advocate for reading aloud to children and the author of The Read Aloud Handbook, reports that children’s books contain about 31 uncommon words per thousand words. That’s three times more than what is heard in conversation and 25% more than what is on television programs. As you read books to your child, you will come upon words unfamiliar to them. Be sure to read the new word and describe its meaning instead of replacing it with a similar, familiar word. 

Talking Makes New Words More Meaningful

Another way to increase children’s vocabulary is to talk with them and narrate their day. As you describe their day, you will introduce new vocabulary in a meaningful context. This will draw children into active conversations which help them retain the new vocabulary.

Choose Engaging Topics and Titles

The key is to talk and read about things that children are interested in and to encourage their use of new vocabulary words. Fall is a fun time to learn new words and concepts, and FCPL has a variety of books about the many things that occur in autumn. Search the catalog or ask your branch staff for help finding children’s books about back-to-school, the changing seasons and fall holidays.

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