Early Literacy: Expanding Your Child’s Reading Vocabulary

According to the LadyBird Peter and Jane keyword series if your child can read the following hundred keywords, he can read 50% of all the words we read and write everyday:

a and he I in is it of that the to was all are as at be but for had have him his not on one said so they we with you about an back been before big by call came can come could did do down first from get go has her here if into just like little look made make me more much must my new no now off old only or other our out over right see she some their them then there this two up want well went were what when where which who will your – Source: Keywords with Peter and Jane

According to a Grolier rep I spoke to, in order for your child to read just about anything he picks up, he really needs a reading vocabulary of 5000 words (probably because Grolier sells those Disney vocabulary expansion books which provide your child with 5000 new words to read). Then again, if your child knows the rules of phonics, he probably doesn’t really need those 5000 words to be able to read anything. Although, being able to read a word doesn’t mean they understand it. So if you really want your child to be able to pick up a book, read it, and comprehend it, you also need him to do more than apply the rules of phonics to a strange new word. Vocabulary expansion is not just about being able to recognise more words, but to be able to understand the meaning of these words.

Going Back to Basics

I know Aristotle can read books like those written by Roald Dahl, but I have never really tested his reading skills to check for gaps. Sometimes you can get the gist of a story just by being able to read most of the words, if not all. So to fill in any gaps in Aristotle’s reading skills, I’ve decided to start back at the basics with a reading list. I managed to locate FRY’s sight words reading list which contains 3000 words and started inputting them into Little Reader (makes it easier for me to randomly shuffle the word lists and add words to a new list when we identify any that Aristotle cannot read or understand). If you have Little Reader, you can download them from my BrillKids files – I have the first 100 up and the second 100 is waiting for approval. If you don’t have Little Reader, you can print out the word lists from Candohelperpage.

My initial intention was simply to flash the words to Aristotle and get him to read them out aloud. He found this boring and started putting each word into a sentence. It took us a lot longer to get through the list but it was great in two respects – it showed me that he knew how to use the words correctly (i.e. in context) and that he understood them. It was also a great thinking exercise for him to come up with random sentences on the spot so I decided that it was worth the extra time it took. Besides, it was more fun for him this way and anything that’s fun is always better.

The other purpose of going back to basics and starting with the easy words that I know he can read is to teach him how to spell them. Even though he can read a word written in a book, he still struggles to recognise words that are spelled out. For instance if we say, “What does a-p-p-l-e spell?” He might not be able to figure it out, especially if it is a word he doesn’t really care for. Of course, he recognises the words that he likes – for instance, we’d never get away with spelling “C-H-I-L-I-S” which is his favourite restaurant.

If you want to keep up to date with my sight words list on Little Reader, make sure you sign up for my free newsletter where I announce new downloads available from my BrillKids files, Figur8, links to other resources I have created or have found useful, and more.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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