When we give presentations, parents are always surprised by this information:
A child’s vocabulary at age 3 is one of the strongest predictors of 10th grade reading comprehension.
Why does this research make sense? Because a strong early foundation in vocabulary sets children up to learn a lot about the world—and that’s what helps them understand high school books and materials. In other words, it’s a statistic that captures what we think of as the vocabulary-knowledge-reading connection.
The more words a child knows and the more comfortable she is with using language – putting words together and using words in an order that makes sense for the person she’s talking to, while also being able to understand when peers and adults are talking to her — the more she will learn about what is going on around her and broader (world) knowledge. And then later on, the more she knows, the more able she is to make meaning, or understanding, out of the things she reads. Think of it this way: it’s always easier to learn new information about something that you know a little bit about already, than it is to learn about something totally foreign.
So when children pick up new books and read words that they are familiar with, or when these new books have topics they have heard about or learned about before, they can more easily figure out the meaning of the print in front of them. To learn from books, we need to already be familiar with a lot of the ideas and concepts on the page – and that comes from knowing words that represent ideas/concepts about the world around us. Put another way, if the words on the page and/or the topic of the book are too unfamiliar or just too difficult to grasp for a child reading on her own, then sounding out the words may look like “reading,” but she won’t be fully understanding what she’s reading.
Next week’s blog will describe how to build children’s vocabulary through reading together. For more information on all of the above, check out the science behind Abound.