Enrich your child’s vocabulary

  • “Frau Diller was a sharp-edged woman with fat glasses and a nefarious glare.”
  • “I should hasten to admit, however, that there was a considerable hiatus between the first stolen book and the second.”
  • “One of them, the infamous Rudy, would soon become Liesel’s best friend, and later, her partner and sometime catalyst in crime.”

These excerpts from “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak illustrate an interesting thought. How often do you skip over a word that you don’t know? So what…? You pride yourself on your ‘speed-reading’ skill and you’ve gathered the meaning through the sentence’s context. We probably all do it to some extent. But in doing so, we miss an opportunity to enrich our own vocabulary.

This habit is one that you probably developed when you first learned to read as a child. Be it from laziness or need for speed, this habit had ingrained itself in your approach to reading. You might say: It’s not relevant! Well, consider the following:

Using mundane vocabulary could actually leave you at a disadvantage. Subtle though it may seem, a person that makes use of sophisticated vocabulary is often perceived as being better educated.

A poor vocabulary is difficult to hide. An inability to express oneself convincingly results in one falling back on words such as ‘very’ or ‘always’ as one flounders in an effort to emphasise one’s point. A sportsman being interviewed might say that he is ‘happy’ with his team’s performance. Instead he could have said that he is satisfied with his team and confident about their prospects in the upcoming contests.

A person with a broader vocabulary is better able to express himself/herself in a debate or negotiation than someone who doesn’t. It is easy to underestimate how your  choice of words can change how your idea is received/perceived.

So, in this ever-changing world that we are educating our children to conquer, how can we prevent this bad habit from forming? How can we teach our children to not skip over the most beneficial words in a story?

Here are some thoughts on how to strengthen your child’s vocabulary and other communication skills:

Remember those old issues of Readers Digest? They made use of the first and simplest method of learning unfamiliar words: The Word Power Quiz. This method is simple. Try it with your children. Challenge them by asking for the meaning of complex words to gauge just how strong their vocabulary is. An alternative way to test this is to ask your child to name three other words (Synonyms) that have the same meaning as the one you gave. Synonyms are an important part of any young reader’s language skills.

You might ask your children to write a short story and it can be about whatever interests them. The trick behind this is to allow your child to use the kind of vocabulary that he/she would normally use because it highlights where there is room for improvement. Read over your child’s first draft together with him/her and show how descriptive words can bring the story to life. The ‘yummy’ cake now can be ‘delicious’, and the ‘scary’ dinosaur is now becoming ‘frightening’. In the next story that your child writes, you will start to see an improvement. As this skill develops, your child will naturally begin to use graphic words not only in their writing, but also in their everyday speech.

What can e-Library do?

e-Library has a powerful functionality that can help children to discover the meaning of words that they do not understand. The in-built dictionary is always at your child’s fingertips. All they need to do is tap and hold on a word that they do not recognise, and the App will offer a pop-up with the definition of their word and other on-line resources for them to explore the word further.

All languages offer wonderfully descriptive words with which your children can express themselves in thoughtful terms. A good vocabulary will serve your children their whole life long and is always a work in process.

Let’s get to work on cultivating your child’s vocabulary, one that is capable of reflecting his/her imagination!