Developing Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Through Read Alouds

We’ve all heard that when children are young, their minds are like sponges.  We want to fill their brain with background knowledge and vocabulary so that they may easily use this knowledge when necessary.  Reading aloud is an excellent way to help build your child’s vocabulary.  Your child will certainly learn new words just by listening and through every day conversation, but here are a few tips to help build your child’s vocabulary explicitly through read alouds:

  • Begin with high-frequency sight words when reading with preschoolers.  These are the words that appear frequently in writing, but are less common in every day conversation.  Children should be able to say the word on sight.  These words are essential to vocabulary development.
  • Use the pictures to help your child make connections to word meanings.  Point to the picture in the text when reading an unknown word.
  • If you come across a word when reading, and you aren’t sure if your child knows what it means, ask him.  This is a perfect opportunity to provide quick vocabulary instruction.  A one to two sentence explanation may be sufficient enough.
  • If your child still has difficulty with vocabulary words, consider creating pictures (either drawing them or printing them online) to help make connections between words and their meanings.  Also consider labeling items in your house (banister, stairs, fireplace, chair, etc.)
  • Word learning is enhanced through repeated readings of text, which provides opportunities to revise and refine word meanings (Kindle, 2009; Carey, 1978).  So, even though you may get tired of reading the same story over and over again, your child is actually morphing through several stages of word knowledge as you do: from never heard it, to sounds familiar, to it has something to do with, to well known (Kindle, 2009; Dale, 1965).

Most important of all: don’t be afraid to read books that have large words in them. Fancy Nancy is a great series of books for girls that provide explicit vocabulary instruction through the story.  I know a few preschool girls who use words like “exquisite” and “furious” – and they use them correctly!

This post was inspired by: Vocabulary Development During Read Alouds: Primary Practices by Karen J. Kindle (The Reading Teacher, 2009).

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.


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4 Responses to “Developing Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Through Read Alouds”

  1. Kristi Bernard Says:

    This is great advice. I often do this with my nephew.

  2. Tweets that mention Developing Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Through Read Alouds « Literacy Toolbox -- Says:

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  3. Melissa Taylor Says:

    Where do you find the time to post all this great content, Dawn! I love this post, thanks!


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