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- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
Research shows a connection between early elementary students’ word knowledge and reading comprehension in both early elementary school and throughout upper grades (Juel and Deffes, 2004). As a fourth grade teacher and parent of three, I see this connection every day. I am often asked, "What can I do for my kids at home? What should we be doing during the summer?” And the answer is simple: “Talk to them!”
Remember how excited you were to hear your baby’s first words? How you cooed and encouraged any sounds they made? You would have conversations about nothing, encouraging their sounds and noises. Children learn to speak because they are spoken to; and this spoken language turns into reading comprehension as they enter school. It is just as important for parents to keep this conversation moving as those sounds become words, those words become sentences and those sentences become stories. Vocabulary and reading comprehension are interwoven skills each relying on the other for students to be successful.
So, to expand upon this idea, here are three important things parents and children can do at home this summer to increase vocabulary and reading comprehension: play, talk, read.
- Play—words are fun. Our English language is full of multiple meaning words, words that mean the same thing and silly words that rhyme. Playing with language uses a child’s natural curiosity and creativity to spark reading. Play word games online, on your mobile device, with board games, or just for fun. Playing with words models a love of language and engages children in conversation, our next goal.
- Talk—conversation is a dying art. In our busy world it is easy to get lost in technology and sports schedules, and the business of life. Find time to talk. Ask your kids questions. Discuss where you are going on the way to the pool. Talk about what things you will see, what you will do, what your children are looking forward to. Today in the car I asked Princess to think of three other words that would describe swimming. “Splash, floating, and dripping wet” were our favorites. Just as we practice swimming, baseball, and softball it is important to practice vocabulary. The more words your child hears, the more words they will incorporate into their vocabulary. The more words they have in their vocabulary, the more tools they have to use in reading and comprehending text. Talking practices vocabulary and creates bonds during this all too quick childhood that is flying by.
- Read—not a surprise, I know! But, not only should your children be reading to you, make sure you are reading to them. Even advanced readers and older kids benefit from hearing someone read. Find a chapter book to read together. Read graphic novels or your favorite comics from childhood. Make a point to read the newspaper, paperwork, or a book in front of your child. Go to the library together and enroll in the summer reading program. As you are reading, discuss new vocabulary words. What word was your favorite on the page or in the chapter? Why? What words gave you the most detail or described something the best? Were there any words that surprised you? Why? Are there any words you don’t know? Look them up together and draw a picture of what the word meant from the story. Reading together opens up new discussion and stories to share with your child.
Vocabulary is an important piece that is often overlooked in reading at home. Have fun with words this summer. Start a journal of new words, favorite words or words that describe your events of the summer. Read together and talk. Helping your child increase their vocabulary will impact their reading and increase their reading comprehension. Have fun and let us know what word games you discover.
Juel, C., & Deffes, R. (2004). Making words stick. Educational Leadership, 61(6), 30-34.