Here at The HDFC Schools, we know how important it is that children should develop a rich vocabulary. Our aim across all our schools branches - Pune, Bengaluru and Gurugram is to help children develop well rounded personalities, and a strong diction and vocabulary help in improving a child’s self-confidence to no end. In fact, our students at Gurugram recently participated in and won top prizes at The Spell Bee conducted by Hummingbird. So we know what it takes to help children improve their daily vocabulary.
In addition to formal education, your role as a parent in shaping your child's vocabulary is pivotal. Remarkably, up to 95% of the words a child learns can be traced back to their parents' vocabulary, highlighting your profound influence. Active parental involvement in this learning journey amplifies your child's motivation and achievements.
Fortunately, integrating vocabulary development into your daily home life is feasible and enjoyable, whether through shared reading, engaging conversations, or playful interactions. By doing so, you can empower your child with a strong foundation for a prosperous future, all while relishing quality bonding time together.
This is an obvious point, but an extremely valid one. Unsurprisingly, numerous studies show that children who read a lot have wider vocabularies than those who don’t. This is because books typically include a much broader range of words than we use in everyday conversation. Whether they read alone or you read together, if they’re interested in a topic or author, they are more likely to be absorbed in the story and so be curious about any new words they encounter – as well as developing a life-long love of reading. Whether fiction, non-fiction, biographies or science fiction thrillers, it’s important that they inculcate the reading habit early on for life-long benefits.
Tip: Know the Lexile Text Level of a book before buying it to make sure that it is at an appropriate reading level for your child. While you may want them to read at a higher level than their peers, it isn’t worth buying the book if your child is overwhelmed by it and therefore doesn’t read it at all. You can check the Lexile Text Level of a book here.
While reading, children are bound to come across words and/or phrases that they have not read before. They can probably get a broad idea of their meaning from the context, but it’s a good idea to keep a dictionary close by, so that they can look up the meaning of that word quickly. For phrases, a quick Google search will help. But don’t just stop there. It’ll be far easier to remember the word or phrase and use it later on if the child were to use it in a sentence themselves. So keep a pen and paper handy as well.
I remember vividly, while reading a book by P.G. Wodehouse (an author I strongly recommend for his use of prose), I came across the word “hauteur” which I had never read before. I didn’t have a dictionary nearby, but using Google, I quickly found out that the word means proud haughtiness shown through one’s manner. I read the book more than 2 years ago, but I still remember that word, even though I’ve never had a chance to use it.
If your own English vocabulary is good, make sure to put it to use when speaking with your child. It is common for many parents to speak to their children using simpler words. That’s good, but you should try intentionally mixing it up with more challenging words that your child is unlikely to have heard before. You don’t have to speak like one of our well-known politicians, instead, just use these words in casual conversation with your child. It’s probable that their natural curiosity will take over and they’ll ask you what it means. Speak to your child as if you were speaking to another adult with a good grasp of the language.
Perhaps you don’t want your child engaging in discussions beyond their years, but listening to the British Parliamentary Debate is a great way to improve your child’s vocabulary. English is their first language, so their everyday vocabulary is rich. Children are bound to learn new words and phrases by listening to the debaters.
You can find a lot of debates on YouTube, and if the accent is a little difficult to understand, use the captions.
A root word is the basis for a word, with the addition of prefixes and/or suffixes. For example, the root word for “audible” is “aud”, which is derived from the Greek word “audier” meaning “to hear”. If your child didn’t understand the word ‘audible’ in the sentence, ‘Emma was barely audible’, for example, think about other words with the root ‘aud’ that your child already knows, such as audio and audience. This will help your child understand that the word is about hearing and gather from the context that Lily is speaking very quietly.
While reading or conversing together, if your child encounters an unfamiliar word, consider providing a quick definition through a synonym. For instance, "bereft" means losing something. Later, at the end of the chapter or conversation, revisit the word, especially if it's in a book. Point to it and say it aloud, helping them become accustomed to its pronunciation. Similarly, consulting a thesaurus can be beneficial. It provides a variety of synonyms and antonyms, allowing for comparison. Additionally, it aids in creative writing by preventing the repetition of a single word. For example, instead of using 'happy' repeatedly, you could opt for 'joyful,' 'content,' or 'pleased' to add depth to the narrative.
Encouraging your child to weave stories fosters creativity and language proficiency. It provides a platform for them to express thoughts, emotions, and imagination in a structured manner. Through storytelling, children learn to construct narratives, develop characters, and use diverse vocabulary. This practice enhances their writing skills, bolstering communication abilities essential for academics and personal expression. Moreover, it fosters a love for storytelling, nurturing a lifelong appreciation for literature and self-expression. By inspiring them to write stories, you're nurturing a valuable skill that will benefit them in various aspects of their academic and personal life.
Engaging your child with board games, word puzzles, and trivia challenges offers enjoyable ways to capture their interest, stimulate cognitive development, and enhance word recognition. Classics like Scrabble and Boggle promote strategic thinking, creativity, and vocabulary expansion. Group games facilitate social interaction, encouraging kids to discuss rules and strategies and strengthening language skills in the process. Beyond vocabulary improvement, these games provide opportunities for children to actively incorporate newly acquired words into their speech, fostering confident communication and expressive abilities.
A robust vocabulary is something that will benefit your child their entire life. The increased confidence that comes from speaking well cannot be understated, nor can the impression that it leaves on others. By helping your child develop their vocabulary from an early age, you are enhancing their language skills as well as cognitive development. So encourage them to read, write, ask questions, look for answers and be generally curious about the English language.