The Reading Corner- The Importance of Vocabulary


The dreaded vocabulary words.  Kids hate looking up words and writing down the definitions.  Some homeschoolers view this as busy work, but is it?  I have to say, as a reading specialist,  it is important, actually essential to successful schooling.

Why is it so important?

  • Studies show that there is a direct correlation between vocabulary and reading comprehension.  How can a child understand a concept when he doesn’t know what the author (or speaker for that matter) is saying?
  • Vocabulary is the building block from which knowledge is gained.  We can’t master more difficult concepts until we get the foundation. And vocabulary is the foundation.
  • Knowledge of vocabulary increases confidence.  When we speak well, it is easier to carry on a conversation and to be confident in social situations with people from all walks of life.
  • Individuals with voluminous vocabularies make more money than those who don’t.

How do you teach vocabulary?  The most effective methods used to teach vocabulary are a combination of direct instruction of word meanings, discussion about words and word parts, and reading a wide genre of materials is the best way to increase vocabulary.

Studies show that children learn best by being exposed to words in many formats  including:

  • re-writing definitions
  • writing antonyms and synonyms
  • learning the part of speech (is the word a noun, verb, etc.)
  • dissect the word ( point out prefixes, suffixes, root word)
  • using a word in context- write sentences with missing words and have your child fill in the blank.  The sentences can be taken from the textbook for science and social studies if necessary.
  • using the word in a sentence

Why so many vocabulary words?  It seems like every subject has vocabulary and it’s too much for a child to complete.  Well, if a child reads 1 hour 5 days per week, and he reads an average of 100 words per minute, he’ll read 6000 words in that hour or 30, 000 word in a week.  Let’s say he doesn’t understand 1% of the words.  300 words per week that he didn’t understand.  Can you imagine the frustration that  child would experience?  No wonder kids are give up on reading!

How do I motivate my child to learn vocabulary?  What’s a parent to do if their child is not motivated?

  • Modeling.  Let your child see you expanding your vocabulary and make sure you are reading in front of your child. Why should he care if his parents don’t?
  • Explain to your child the correlation between a good vocabulary and their potential earning power.
  • Read, read, read!!!  Make sure your child is reading daily whether it’s a novel, non-fiction work, magazine, or even a comic book. Novels and non-fiction works are superior, but reading a comic book is better than reading nothing.
  • Play games (in addition to looking up words).  Play bingo, make crossword puzzles, word searches, scrabble, boggle, words with friends, etc.
  • Use an online dictionary to look up words and let your child cut and paste the definitions.  If the words are from a history or science text, he may not be able to cut and paste.
  • Make the thesaurus your child’s friend.  It is one of the most efficient tools your child can use to master vocabulary.
  • Make flash cards with the words on one side and the definition on the other.   Call out the words.  Put the words your child knows in one pile and the words he doesn’t know in another pile and review the words your child doesn’t know. This is a great tool for helping with science and history terms.

But my child complains so much.  It takes forever.  Well, there are some things in life we have to do that are not fun and vocabulary may be one of those things.  If I skipped over everything my kids didn’t want to do while we were homeschooling, they would be illiterate, no kidding!  My son hated school and did everything he could to get out of it.  But if you are going to homeschool, you have to tell your child to stop complaining or maybe give them an extra word for every time they complain and MAKE THEM DO IT!!!  Also use a timer and give a reward when the work is finished and it is done correctly!!!!

Remember a child must come in contact with a word between 10-20 times before it becomes a regular part of his vocabulary.  That’s why kids learn words for a quiz and promptly forget them and it may be why they can’t see the purpose for learning vocabulary.  As a homeschooling parent, it’s your job to use at least some of the vocabulary words in conversation so that your child will master them.

Trust me, when they’re adults and they have good jobs, you will be thankful you made them do it!  In spite of the fact that my son hated vocabulary while in school, he  now has an excellent vocabulary and beats the vast majority of people he plays on Words With Friends.  Even though we struggled through, he picked up more than I thought.  So this does work!!!

Hang in there and remember 2 Timothy 4:7

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

And declare this daily, ” My child will grow up to be a literate individual who contributes to society, no matter how it seems today”!

Blessings to you and yours as you “train up your child in the way he should go”.


About pcobb0

I am a wife and mother to two wonderful adult children who I had the privilege of homeschooling from their pre-school through high school years. While homeschooling, I served in various leadership positions in local homeschool support groups including president. I also served as the Education Coordinator and Director of ENAACT Family Academy, a homeschool co-op in New Braunfels, Tx .Prior to homeschooling, I spent 11 years teaching elementary school aged children in both public and private schools. During my time teaching in the public school system, I earned a Master's Degree in Reading Education as well as a Reading Specialist certification. My hobbies include reading and cooking and I plan to take up scrapbooking and maybe photography in the near future. I am now an empty nester discovering what God has in store for me during this next season of life.
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One Response to The Reading Corner- The Importance of Vocabulary

  1. Rebeca Jones says:

    Great encouragement here, Pat. Especially for those of us with children who are language challenged. Thank you–this is good information!

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