4 tips for building your child’s vocabulary, one story at a time

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It all starts with conversations. Children generally learn to read and write at school but before they start school, parents and caregivers are the main source for their vocabulary development. The more you talk to your child, the faster they make connections between words and meanings, ultimately increasing their vocabulary.

Research indicates that talking to your child during the first three years can considerably increase their IQ. Similarly, it is the size of a child’s vocabulary that determines their reading age, and many studies have found a correlation between reading age and later success.

Timothy Bates and Stuart Ritchie from the University of Edinburgh analysed the relationship between early reading skills at seven and later socio-economic life, following more than 17,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales over 50 years. They found out that reading well at the age of seven was a key factor in determining whether people went on to get high-income jobs. “Children with higher reading and math skills ended up having higher incomes, better housing and more professional roles in adulthood,” the authors concluded.

Parental support with language early on can also make a difference for children when transitioning into primary school and ease any learning challenges they may face. Wondering where to start? Here are a few ways:

  1. Allocate time for reading

Storytelling is a fantastic pastime in many ways! Allocating 15-20 minutes a day to read to, and with your child can both teach them new vocabulary and how to read. Reading whilst looking at the text with your child helps them see what words and full sentences look like, and later form connections between the words being spoken and the ones written on their own. You can make your reading sessions more fun and engaging by choosing books together and making the reading exercise as interactive as possible.

  1. Ask questions

Asking your child questions during your reading sessions is not only great for encouraging them to interact with the book, but it is also helps their ability to comprehend what they are reading. You can start by asking your child to clarify what has been read or what they think a word means, as well as encouraging them to ask questions back about anything they don’t quite understand.

  1. Linking reading to writing

Introducing writing exercises during your reading sessions can be done in many ways. A good example is ‘Talk for Writing’, an approach to learning developed by Pie Corbett widely used in UK primary schools. Talk for Writing is a powerful and fun approach that enables children to physically imitate the language – i.e. act out the words – they need for a particular topic before reading and analysing it and then writing their own version.

  1. Get creative

Reading and writing exercises do not have to strictly follow the storyline on paper. Encouraging the use of imagination makes for an enjoyable and memorable learning experience. You can do so by asking them to change the angle or a feature of a story they’ve read, how would they change the story to make it better or come up with possible sequels to stories.

“At GIS, we believe in the importance of developing a wide and rich vocabulary through nurturing a love of reading, sharing quality story books and encouraging our children to experiment with their growing vocabulary in all aspects of the curriculum. We actively support “magpieing” ideas, using ideas from stories we have read and from our peers,” says Katy Bannister, Assistant Head of Lower School.

This post is sponsored by Garden International School. To learn more about the school, visit www.gardenschool.edu.my or call +603 6209 6888.

If your child is starting school soon, read also our tips for getting ready for the first day of school!

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