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Putnam County R-I Schools

Elementary School


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Books! The perfect Language-Learning Tool!

1. Children need to hear many words often

The average child’s vocabulary when he starts school is roughly 5000 words. This means that between the ages of one and five, children learn (on average) approximately 3.5 words every day. In order for this to happen, children need lots of exposure to language. And it’s not just how much children hear, but also what they hear that matters. Several studies have shown that children benefit from exposure to unfamiliar vocabulary (words they don’t hear in everyday conversations, like “damp”, “purchase”, or “frightened”) 

2. Children learn words when they are interested

Children learn language best when adults follow their lead by joining in their play and talking about their interests. Research has shown that parents who follow their child’s lead and use language related to their child’s interests tend to have children with more advanced vocabularies.

3. Children learn best when adults are responsive to them

Much research has shown that young children benefit from interactions with adults who do the following while interacting with them:

  • continue children’s topics by responding to what they say with a related comment or question
  • express a positive attitude
  • use a variety of words and sentences

4. Words are learned when meanings are made clear

Books can help parents teach children what words mean because:

  • parents can use the illustrations to explain the meaning of new words
  • the conversations that occur while looking at a book offer opportunities for parents to pause the story and explain what a new word means
  • books often use the same new word on several pages of the book. This provides several opportunities to hear a new word used in a variety of sentences, and this helps children understand the word’s meaning.

5. Vocabulary and grammar are learned together

Vocabulary (words) and grammar (rules about the structure of a language) are learned together and help each other develop. Children need to hear new words in grammatically correct sentences in order to learn language efficiently.

Source: Promoting Language with Books. Lauren Lowry. (Hanen Certified SLP and Clinical Staff Writer)