Family Literacy Corner: Focusing on Vocabulary

Focusing on Vocabulary

We're introducing a new type of blog post where we share research about various reading topics in hopes of inspiring and empowering families to read together at home. For our first topic, let's talk about words.

Words come in two forms: oral and print. Print and oral words include those that we recognize and those that we use. Receptive vocabulary includes those words we recognize. Productive vocabulary includes words we use when we speak or write.

Vocabulary is the knowledge of words and word meanings in oral and print language, and in receptive and productive forms

Vocabulary development plays a crucial role in comprehension. How can beginning readers comprehend words they don’t understand? Furthermore, word knowledge is essential to helping beginning readers decode written words and map spoken words in print.

A few things to consider about word knowledge: Word knowledge is

  • Incremental — readers need to have many exposures to a word in different contexts before they truly know it.

  • Multidimensional — words have multiple meanings and serve different functions in different contexts.

  • Interrelated — knowledge of one word connects to knowledge of other words.

Researchers suggest that children should add approximately 2,000 to 3,500 distinct words to their reading vocabularies each year (Anderson & Nagy, 1992; Anglin, 1993; Beck & McKeown, 1991; White et al., 1990).  That’s a lot of new words! Fortunately, most of these words will be acquired through incidental learning — exposure to and interaction with increasingly complex and rich oral language, as well as by encountering lots of new words in texts, either through independent reading or being read to (National Reading Panel, 2000).

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This is great news! You can support your child's vocabulary development through regular story time, everyday interactions, and by encouraging them to read independently at home. Here are some free reading resources to help you get started:

Share with us how you encourage reading at home with #SAReadsFamilies or tag us on Facebook and Twitter (@sareads).