“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” — Ernest Hemingway
Words are currency for conversation. We all have the ability learn more valuable vocabulary. The best part is that when we teach others words, it doesn’t make us poorer, but rather enriches both lives. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or just want to help the next generation succeed, there are simple ways to help children increase their vocabularies.
Talk & Read More
In order for children to have high vocabularies, they need to be exposed to as much language as possible. This may seem obvious once children turn a certain age, but it is actually important to begin speaking to children from birth (or sooner!). It’s even beneficial to read to newborns. The bad news is that television and other recorded voices won’t work as well as a live person speaking. The good news is that you can read any material to a newborn. This can be a great way to catch up on reading the news or any book you’re currently working on. As vocabulary expert Dana Suskind explains, “While babies may not understand the words, they are comforted by the sound of a parent’s voice, the rhythm of speech, and the warmth of the touch.”
Keep Language Positive
As kids grow and begin to comprehend what adults are saying, it’s important for them to hear an abundance of positive language. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) specialists agree that our brains struggle to process negative words. This is why when people are told not to think of a purple elephant, it becomes difficult to think of anything else. With children, this can mean when you say, “Don’t touch!” their brains are focusing on “Touch!” Luckily, we can easily counteract this problem by rephrasing what we say with a positive spin. For example, “Don’t touch!” can be traded out for, “Please keep your hands to yourself.” The more words a child’s brain can process, the more words they will remember.
Repeat & Rephrase
Rephrasing is also useful when it comes to what children are saying. Repeating what a youngster has said, and slightly correcting the wording, is a wonderful way to increase vocabulary. For instance, if a child exclaims, “That dog is real big!” you might respond with, “Yes, that dog is huge!” Using new words in the context of what a child is already talking about makes it easy to introduce new words.
If a kid’s home language is different than the one spoken at school, it’s important to develop literacy skills in his or her native language as studies have found that strengthening skills in any language is beneficial while learning a new one. If you want your child fluent in English, vocabulary from other languages can help show connections between the words.
Look in your local library for some our favorite books which are available in multiple languages or have bilingual editions:
1. Spot Goes to School by Eric Hill (Arabic Edition)
2. Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert (English and Spanish)
3. Janjak and Freda Go to the Iron Market by Elizabeth Turnbull (English and Creole)
Follow these tips and the children around you will be rich with words! What are some of your favorite tips for increasing vocabulary? Let us know below.
What are some of your favorite tips for increasing vocabulary? Let us know below.
by Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper. Hannah is a Library Specialist with Books for Kids and works in our Las Vegas libraries. This post originally appeared on her blog at Medium.com.