Fancy Words – Building Children’s Vocabularies

One of the questions that often comes up among writers of children’s books concerns the use of higher level vocabulary.

Whether a child is a native English speaker or is learning English as a second language, he/she needs exposure to rich, varied and challenging language. Children acquire most words through their daily encounters, using context to understand meaning. But acquiring a new word is not automatic. They must be engaged and interested.

So for all the writers – YES! Use some fancy words. They’re fun! Let them nestle into the rich context of story and art. Jazz it up like bowties on penguins.

Vocabulary learning is crucial to reading comprehension and success in school. The keys to expanding a child’s vocabulary are

  • multiple purposeful exposures,
  • explicit instruction,
  • interactive activities,
  • word learning strategies and
  • opportunities to use new words.

Writers have a role in building vocabulary, as well as teachers and parents. I’ll leave you with some great VOCABULARY ACTIVITIES for the CLASSROOM on my Parent/Teacher Resource page, and two sources on vocabulary instruction – one focused on the research and the other modeling instruction during a read-aloud.

A Review of the Current Research on Vocabulary Instruction from the National Reading Technical Assistance Center, RMC Research Corporation, 2010

“Bridging the Vocabulary Gap: What the Research Tells Us about Vocabulary Instruction in Early Childhood” from Young Children, July (2010): 84-91. National Association for the Education of Young Children.


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