I have taught dyslexic students for over 12 years now and it never ceases to strike me how important vocabulary is – even when a child struggles to read and battles to put their ideas down on paper, if their vocabulary is wide and robust then they will do well at school and beyond. Those who don’t have a wide vocabulary are stuck with simple words and may not even have any words to use to express themselves – they tend to fail, especially in formal examinations. Ignore vocabulary at your peril!
So, if you are still need of some motivation to tackle this area, here are 5 reasons why you should improve your child’s vocabulary:-
It is important for your child to be able to understand what someone is saying to them.
It is incredibly important for your child to be able to understand what they are reading.
It bolsters their ability to grasp ideas and think logically.
It boosts their powers of persuasion.
It helps their written work become more sophisticated and makes their ideas clearer to others in their writing.
But, you are wondering whether it is your job to improve your child’s vocabulary? Shouldn’t this happen at school? Vocabulary development does happen at school, but even if a teacher directly teaches vocabulary over the school year, they will only be able to cover 300 – 400 words. A dyslexic child’s vocabulary will develop faster through reading – the statistics are that a struggling student who reads for 7 minutes daily will add up to 21,000 words to their vocabulary over a year; if they read for longer then they will add more than 1,000,000 words per year (reading for 20 minutes and over. Research by Cunningham and Stanovich)). This completely eclipses the amount a teacher can teach them!
How can you develop your child’s vocabulary? Reading, reading and reading some more! This is the key way to improve vocabulary – even if you can only read with your child for 5 – 10 minutes, you will be adding a significant amount of vocabulary for them to use. As we know, dyslexic children struggle with reading so make it fun by reading aloud to them, sharing the reading ( you read a page then they read a page or whatever length is appropriate for them) and getting them audio books that they have chosen, which you can listen to in the car.
You can also use technology to help you. The website www.vocabulary.co.il uses fun ways to teach vocabulary through games such as unscrambling, hangman, word searches and so on ( it is also aimed at those learning English). You could expand your child’s reading through websites. Some good ones out there are:
www.timeforkids.com – a general site which looks fun.
www.ngkids.com – this is the National Geographic for kids.
www.sciencenewsforstudents.org – for all those science geeks!
www.scolastic.com/kids/stacks - a general site with interesting bits and pieces.
If your child has speech and language problems then there are good activities and games to develop vocabulary on www.speechandlanguagekids.com for you to do with your child.
Building vocabulary takes time, especially for your child to use the new words they have learnt. Make your games and activities fun and neither of you will even realise that you are developing a key academic skill!
PS: If you would like to be part of an online community who shares ideas and discusses problems they are having with their dyslexic child’s learning, please click here to join my free Facebook group.
If you would like to learn more about how dyslexia affects reading, then click here to enroll in one of my online courses.
You can also contact me if you would like a consultancy meeting where you can discuss your concerns about your child and how dyslexia is affecting them.
Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
‘eVoc Strategies: 10 ways to use technology to build vocabulary’ By Bridget Dalton in The Reading Teacher Feb 2011
Speech and Language Kids
K5 Learning blog