Vocabulary is one of the six essential early literacy skills that prwordsepare children for reading years and years later.

And between birth and age 6 most vocabulary is developed through talking. (You thought I was going to say books, didn’t ya?)

Surprised? Most people are. They’re even more surprised when they learn the following facts gleaned from research:

  • 85% of a child’s language development takes place before age 6 (in other words, before they start learning to read and write).
  • A child whose parents talk very little with him will have a 3,000 word vocabulary by age 5. A child who is talked to a lot? 20,000 words.
  • Children need to hear words and learn what they mean before they begin reading.

Imagine someone asking you to read and understand words in a language unknown to you. It would be impossible. Yet that is what we ask children to do when we send them off to school without a developed vocabulary.

Remember, all you have to do is talk with your child (yes, no, and commands do not count; conversations do) and enjoy books together (notice I did not say “read.” Even picking up a book and talking about the pictures build vocabulary).

Here are a few books that making talking and learning about new words fun:

  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
  • Of Colors and Things by Tana Hoban (you can also talk about how things are grouped, same and different, and of course, colors!)
  • Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres (great for those tricky directional words)
  • Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Chicka, Chicka, 1,2,3 by Bill Martin
  • Un-Brella by Scott Franson (soooo clever, read and re-read for figuring the story out and learning opposites, it’s also wordless)
  • The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri
  • Machines at Work by Byron Barton
  • The Everything Book by Denise Fleming
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

So grab a book and a kid and talk it up!