The Vocabulary-Reading Together Relationship: A Building Block for Life

As we talked about in last week’s blog, there is a long line of research that tells us that a child’s early language skills relate to high school reading levels. We specifically called out the memorable data point that a child’s vocabulary knowledge at age 3 is one of the strongest predictors of 10th grade reading scores, and we promised to describe how to build up children’s vocabulary. That’s why today’s blog is about the best thing parents can do to build children’s vocabulary knowledge—read with them.

Why is it that reading to little ones is the best way to build their early language skills? Because reading together creates opportunities to have rich conversations with kids—and those conversations about storybooks build the kind of vocabulary that matters for later reading. Think of it as a direct link from reading and talking about books together to your child’s vocabulary level. And then, studies show a direct link from a child’s oral vocabulary level to her reading success.

So to help your child become a strong reader, talk about books — before, during, and after reading, from the earliest years.

Vocabulary-Reading: to break it down, here’s how it works:

  • reading together gives parents lots of opportunities to say new words and talk about ideas, and it encourages conversation with children;
  • parent-child conversations about new words and ideas build children’s own vocabulary and language skills; and
  • these conversations also build children’s knowledge. They learn about things they didn’t know, and talk about things they hadn’t thought about before — or things they had known or thought about but are understanding even more deeply with each reading.

So when we read to our babies and toddlers and children of all ages, we are helping them to build language, and that language builds knowledge. And what is the relationship to 10th grade reading comprehension? Well, building up a large vocabulary and a knowledge base from the earliest years sets up students to understand the words, concepts and ideas that they’re going to come across all the way through the school years—and to learn even more along the way.

Ultimately, then, there is an argument for thinking about how we read to children. What are the kinds of books that create those language-building experiences, and what kinds of conversations are the most beneficial for children’s later reading skills?  Abound Parenting’s upcoming blogs will focus on choosing books and other simple ways to have rich conversations with young children –from the earliest days.

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