It is well recognized that reading with your child makes a difference in both her readiness for school and also her success once she is attending school. One area that we frequently forget, however, is plain old learning vocabulary.
Just think about a child entering school who knows about 1,000 words. Compare that child with another one who knows 5,000. This is a basic pre-reading skill because it is a part of reading comprehension. It is easy to see which child will be successful.
So how does a parent or grandparent or child care provider make a difference? Reading many stories really helps a child learn words. An essential part of reading together is talking about the story you have just read. This helps build strong vocabularies.
Just talking with your child makes a difference in the number of words that become part of your child’s vocabulary. When you discuss that grandma and grandpa are coming this afternoon and staying for dinner, your child is learning new words.
When you drive down the street and talk about the sign that says school zone which is part of the school she will attend, she is learning new words.
Interaction is key
Some parents talk a great deal with their children. Not surprisingly, those children have significantly more words they know than when the parent doesn’t talk with the child a great deal.
Even when you look at picture books and talk about the pictures of different things your child is learning more words. When it is snack time, talk about the label on the food you are giving her. When you take her to the library, discuss what you will find when you get there.
When you are out in the yard working, discuss what you are doing and ways she can help. Does she know the difference between a geranium and a daffodil? Talk with her about these differences.
As you fix dinner do you talk with her about what you are doing or about what she thinks her favorite food is that you make. Can she help you by putting in one of the ingredients in what you are making for tonight? What would she like to learn how to cook?
Before bedtime, do you go over what happened today? Let her talk but don’t forget to discuss the things she forgets. Don’t try to keep things simple. Talk about everything. Every conversation you have together is a chance for her to develop her vocabulary.
Get them prepared
It is estimated that today only 50 percent of children entering kindergarten are fully ready. This is a critical problem. This means that half the children are one to two years behind their classmates the first day they enter school. This is a tough struggle for many children to try to catch up. Many never do.
This is a part of helping your child be ready for school that isn’t related to income or background of the parents. This is a skill any parent can help their child master.
Any parent who wants to make sure their child is ready for school needs to talk with their child, read to their child, and spend time each day with them sharing learning activities. These parents will be delighted with the results they see when their child is ready to succeed in school. These children will be ready for school and stay ahead, year after year.
Today is the day to begin. Make this learning fun and see the results.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach current First Teacher Executive Director Nicole Brewer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.