Extending Children’s Vocabulary with Picture Books and Stories

Pictures & Books

Once a child has learned names for all the ‘real’, solid objects in their environment, their vocabulary can be extended with pictures. Kids LOVE picture books and as they get older flash cards with writing. These are excellent educational materials for children at home, from a young age.

The books being used are important, just like the toys. Children will have their favourite book/s which they will want to look at over and over again with you or alone. Read the book as often as the child likes (and you have time for!), point at all the pictures, describe what is happening. As your child gains confidence, name objects and ask your child to find them. My now 10 year old daughter had her favourite books, and now my 22 month old son Bri also does. I shall use my daughter Inky as an example here – when I first started looking at books with her, she listened and looked at the pictures being pointed out and described to her. Eventually she pointed to the pictures and with the vocabulary she had named all the things she knew. This led on to adding words in like ‘the’, and then on to colours and full sentences. Other times, she would just sit quietly and listen and we would ask her to point things out, like where is the cat? What does the girl wear on her feet? What is in the bag? Etc.  It was so much fun, not just for her, but for all who read with her. The best part is getting to do it all over again with my little boy Bri 🙂 and his sister looks at books with him all the time. I’d like to add that I am German and we do this in German also. Inky is flawlessly bilingual and Bri is getting there too.

In general kids will sit captivated when we read to them, the length of time increasing with age. This gives us a chance to instil a love for literature and of reading, to teach facts, values, and the pronunciation of words (the younger they are the more they stare at your mouth forming words and try to copy), even those not used all the time. You should endeavour to provide books that show different cultures, and do not stereotype situations and people. The language of the book should show respect for the child, his intelligence and his emotions.

Be choosy, even simple vocabulary books can be over-crowded with lots of pictures crammed in, full of glaring colours. These can over-stimulate children. It is much better to have few beautiful books to be cherished and respected, than to have heaps which don’t do the developing mind of a young child justice. Have a book rack or some other easily accessible place to keep books, so the child can always find the one they desire, can look after them and tidy away themselves.

I read somewhere that at a young age books should be grounded in reality because children wish to learn about the real world, and that this is the best way to prepare children for a creative imagination. Fantasy is very enjoyable to the older children, but very confusing to very young children. In our experience it was never confusing to have a wide selection of both ‘real’ books and fantasy books…

Imagination or Lying?

How do you differentiate? For children under 5 or so there is no difference. Around age 5-7 children become more interested in fairness, morals, the truth and will explore such concepts in depth. For the first 5 years, children trying to communicate should not be interrupted with questions about truth.

When a child tells a story that starts out based on reality and turns into fantasy, say something like, ’you have excellent imagination,’ or ’what a lovely story’. This warrants children’s use of vocabulary, verbal skill, imagination, and at the same time introduce concepts such as imagination and story, which will help them in their own time sort out the difference between imagination and lying.

Most importantly, remember to follow the child’s interests, and to keep learning natural and fun.

Related link – Extending Children’s Vocabulary with Picture Books and Stories

 

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