Vocabulary Skills

Northeast Library

Vocabulary Skills

Early Literacy tips for parents and caretakers of young children

Researchers say that there are six skills that are important for children to learn before they are ready to read:

  1. Print Motivation
  2. Print Awareness
  3. Narrative Skills
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Letter Knowledge
  6. Phonological Awareness

(Source: Every Child Ready to Read via Saroj Ghoting).  

What does vocabulary refer to in terms of early literacy?  

Vocabulary skills encompass knowing the names of things, concepts, feelings, and ideas. The larger a vocabulary a child has, the easier it will be for him/her to learn to read.

Many board books created especially for infants have simple, bold text describing the vocabulary for simple things that babies see every day - like bottle, mommy, toys, and teddy bear. Try reading a lift the flap book like What Does Baby Love? by Karen Katz to help your little one identify familiar things around him/her.

As they get older, they will be ready to learn different words for feelings, concepts and ideas. Try Grumpy Gloria by Anna Dewdney to see just how many different words there are to describe when you're feeling grumpy!

Nursery rhymes expose children to words that are not used in everyday conversation. When you read words that are unfamiliar to your child, you may have the urge to simplify text into words your child can understand. Instead of doing this, read the written word and explain what it means. For example, if you are reading the old Mother Goose rhyme, "There was an old woman called Nothing-at-all / Who lived in a dwelling exceedingly small..." you should just pause and say that "dwelling" means home.  Find this rhyme and others in Arnold Lobel's Mother Goose for Babies.

Another great place to start with learning vocabulary words is the human body. Try reading Eyes, Nose, Fingers, and Toes: A First Book All About You by Judy Hindley. It's also great to practice these words during bath time! Then move on to basic concept books such as Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri to learn colors.

The more words your child hears, the larger his/her vocabulary will be. After you read aloud a picture book like The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (bonus for picking a book that has words not used in everyday conversation!), go through the book a second time, but this time, don't read the words. Instead, talk about how the pictures tell the story.

Chances are you'll use new words and synonyms for the words you just read so that your child will learn even more new words.  A child's vocabulary is aligned with how many words they hear per day, so keep talking together!

Interested in more early literacy tips? Attend story time with your child and check back at dclibrary.org/northeast next month for another early literacy tip.

-- Cassie F., Children's Librarian