How to support your child's vocabulary development

Oct 2012
Vocabulary development
Vocabulary plays a fundamental role in the reading process

We recently received the following query from a Kumon parent: "My child sometimes struggles with the vocabulary in the English programme. How can I help them with this?" We thought the response would be valuable for any parent looking to support their child's vocabulary development. You can therefore read our advice below.

Vocabulary plays a fundamental role in the reading process and contributes greatly to a reader's comprehension. Students learn the meanings of most words indirectly, through everyday experiences with oral and written language. Other words are learned through carefully designed instruction.

A number of techniques can be used to help a child struggling with vocabulary on the Kumon programme. These techniques can in fact be utilised by any parent looking to provide their child with additional support.

First and foremost is to encourage your child to read on a daily basis; this will help with vocabulary in general. You may be comfortable taking it up a notch and reading stories that are slightly above your child's level, exposing them to new words. Many children are also capable of reading at a higher level than you may assume. Don't be afraid to encourage them to try reading books that are slightly more advanced than they usually read.

When they come across a word they don't know, encourage them to look at the whole sentence and see if they can work out the meaning in the context of the sentence. If this is not possible, ask them to read the paragraph again so they build a picture of what is happening and then see if they can work out what is going on. Talk them through it to help them figure it out.

Parents can give another example of how the word can be used in a different sentence and ask the child to do the same to ensure they have understood the meaning of the word. A dictionary/thesaurus is also useful if they are old enough, as it can give the meaning of the word and show different ways of using it.

Encourage your child to keep a vocabulary notebook and once they have understood the meaning of the word, to write down the word and a sentence in which the word is used. This is very good for remembering and reinforcing understanding of the words they may be having difficulty with. This notebook can also be used as a revision aid.

Ask your children to pay attention while watching television or listening to others talk. Have them write down two or three words that they didn't understand. They may not be able to spell them properly, but you can help to correct that when you introduce the new word to them.