Vocabulary. Simply put, one of the crucial building blocks to thinking is the depth and breadth of one’s vocabulary. The more words that you know, the more eloquently you will be able to communicate your ideas to people. This will help you in all aspects of your life.
The understanding and use of a vast vocabulary allows a person to be able to think in a more concise way and to express themselves more clearly. With a large vocabulary you will notice that you can communicate more effectively, improve people’s perception of you, increase your self-esteem, and add sophistication to your speech.
When a child first learns to talk, they do it first by listening. Adults, especially parents, should seek to create an environment that is rich in both print and the spoken word. This is critical to a child’s language development and in the long run their ability to think. Most of the time adults do this naturally. When a child utters the word “kitty” most adults will expand upon that by saying something like “Yes that is a kitty, the kitty says meow. The kitty is soft and has a long tail.” You have just expanded that child’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world around her. As parents, it is incumbent upon us to expand that base knowledge of words. The more a child hears the better. Think aloud, describe what you are seeing or doing, read aloud, talk to them even if all you get back is baby babble. This is how your child makes connections and builds their vocabulary. Using new words in familiar situations helps them to grow in their ability to understand and use language more precisely.
Don’t think any words are ‘beyond’ their understanding. If you use the word ‘saturated’ instead of wet or soaked …your child will understand what you meant on a basic, generalized level and then it is up to you to reinforce that. “See it is very, very wet. It is saturated.”
Children (and adults!) can expand their world of words by reading. Reading things you love, and things that challenge you will exponentially expand your understanding of words and language.
I try extremely hard not to restrict or steer my children in any particular direction with the books they choose to read. I know, I know…what if they read something that is too mature or disturbing for them? Yes, that could happen. Usually kids are pretty self-regulating but if they do, be there to have that discussion or answer their questions. Let them work through it and watch their mind open up and the learning take hold. When you see them reading, ask about it. Get a dialog going. Whether they are reading something way above their reading level or below…if they are enjoying it and getting something out of it, that is all that matters. They are not just learning about the subject matter of the story, but they are also absorbing the way words fit together to evoke emotion, or perhaps get a point across to the reader. They are lucky to live in an age where they not only have their parents or teacher but they have the internet readily available if the come across a word they do not understand.
I love writing, so words and vocabulary are important to me. I LOVE coming across a word that I don’t know. I think it is exciting. I always try to use the context of the sentence or story to figure it out, then look it up and see if I am right! Have you read the ‘Book Thief’? In the story the young girl does not know how to read, so as she learns if there is a word she does not know she writes it on the wall of the basement. The wall is like her vocabulary book. It is a visual expression of her expanding knowledge of words. She begins to use her new words to beautifully and creatively describe the outside world to her friend Max. I love this so much. I want everyone to have that ability. To see and feel something and then to be able to use their words to tell others, in such a way, that they can see and feel it too.
It is never too late. Challenge yourself. Learn. Grow. Always.