What can we do to make sure our young children will be prepared for reading tasks in the upper grades? How can we support their vocabulary development? We watch educational shows on tv with them. We try to engage our children in conversations. We make them do their homework. But will they be fully prepared for the heavy demands of reading, reading comprehension and writing in the upper grades? With the increasing effect of technology and social media, reading in the average American household is becoming quite the struggle and parents are wondering what the impact on their children will be and what to do about it.
What is research telling us? According to research, watching TV is not optimal for increasing your child’s vocabulary. Children don’t adequately learn and incorporate new vocabulary words into their language from just watching TV. Research also found that there is limited exposure to new vocabulary words not only from television but also in general conversations, like talking with family and friends, or listening to others talk.
According to one study, (Hayes and Ahrens), it was shown that there are a greater amount of vocabulary words in children’s books than in adult conversation. In another study, (Cunningham and Stanovich), it was shown that children’s books contain 50% more valuable words than adult prime time TV shows. They also compared the rare words in comic books to prime-time children’s TV shows and learned that there are more vocabulary words in the comic books than in the children’s TV shows. It is concluded that children are not exposed to enough new vocabulary through watching tv or in general conversation in order to significantly increase their own vocabulary. Therefore, the most important thing you can do as a parent to support vocabulary development is to promote good daily reading habits at home. Yes, it is worth the effort!
Creating a good reading environment at home, developing an appreciation of books and stimulating a child’s imagination through a story is your goal. The vocabulary development will naturally follow.
If you are looking for ideas on how to accomplish this with your child, or if you are wondering if there is an underlying reading problem that is causing your child’s disinterest in reading, Grow thru Tutoring can help. Contact us for a free conference with you and your child. www.growthrututoring
Cunningham, A. and Stanovich K.E. (1998). What Reading Does for the Mind. Journal of Direct Instruction, Vol 1, No 2, pp 137-149.
Hayes, D. P. & Ahrens, M. (1988). Vocabulary simplification for children: A special case of ‘motherese’. Journal of Child Language, 15, 395–410.