Vocabulary can be described in its most basic sense as “learning new words.” Words and their meanings are a foundation for literacy development and reading comprehension. It’s kind of like the old adage, “You have to learn to walk before you can run.” This skill is strongly supported when a child is read to daily by an adult in his or her life. This could be reading books together at night, reading the names of items at the grocery store, or even simply talking aloud about what you’re doing.
To help support our youngest learners, the Winona Public Library hosts two storytimes per week that include carefully chosen picture books, complementary songs & activities, and a craft at the end that brings everything together. Throughout our storytimes, we build a dialogic reading conversation. This means that we create a dialogue out of what’s happening in the story rather than simply reading the page word for word. This brings about an awareness of vocabulary, predictive knowledge, and narrative skills.
There are a number of ways you can implement vocabulary development at home. The best part about building vocabulary is that it can be done anywhere. Start with these five simple strategies and build as you go:
- Open a conversation about what’s going on at that moment. Example: “Time to put your shoes on! First the left foot, then the right foot. Look at all the colors you have on your shoes. Can you name them all for me?”
- Play telephone. Pretend to talk on the phone with your child. Have a conversation about anything and don’t be embarrassed if someone hears you. This builds their vocabulary and their imagination.
- Open a book and point to items on the page. Example: “What animal do you see on this page? Right, a big bear! Where do you think he lives? Does he look happy or mad? Does he sleep all winter or stay awake? What do you think his favorite food is?”
- Gather random objects from around the house (seriously, even a paper towel roll is great). Put them out on the table and play a game of “I Spy” with your child. If they don’t know the word for something, slowly sound it out with them.
- Take a walk together and talk about what you see. Example: “That tree is a maple tree. Did you know its leaves turn yellow and orange when it starts to get cold? It’s so much taller than the tree next to it! I wonder if that tree is older than the other ones. What do you think?”
Don’t stress yourself out about practicing vocabulary every day. One of the most effective ways to build literacy skills is to simply spend time together. For more information or guidance, please visit the Winona Public Library. Our friendly staff is always ready to help you navigate the path of early literacy (and beyond).
Use one of these free handouts to practice at home: