With NJoy, I sometimes get weary of the question “why” over and over and over again.  With ALuv, I get this question at least five times a day, “Mommy, what does ________ mean?”  Don’t get me wrong.  It gets weary too, but this is a natural way for kids to learn vocabulary.  I’ve come to cherish his thirst for words (on most days) and I try to say words that I know will grow his vocabulary.  Just today I said, “This construction is an inconvience” while we were stuck in the van less than one mile from our house.  The inevitable: “Mommy, what does inconvience mean?”  Bingo!

Of course, we can introduce words in our everyday spoken language, but another wonderful way is through reading books aloud to kids.  Books have a way of introducing words that we wouldn’t necessarily think of using in our everyday language.  Rich words like perplexed, absurd, forlorn, or bellow.  Sometimes I pull out words ahead of time from the text and talk about them (3 words is enough for my 5 year old), but it’s also good to stop while reading and briefly explain the word’s meaning.  After reading the book, talk about the new words again (or just pick one that your child particularly likes).

What exactly do you do with the word now that you’ve introduced it briefly?  A great book I’ve read on this is Bringing Words to Life by Isabel L. Beck. 

She suggests that you:

  • apply it to meaningfully to an example situation (52); embed examples within your definition because sometimes the definition within itself can be confusing (55)
  • provide examples beyond the original context because young children “have a strong tendency to limit word’s use to the context in which it was initially presented” (52)
  • help kids see how the new word relates to words they may already know (67)
  • provide multiple encounters with the word (9)

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