Words are the most valuable things your children can acquire because vocabulary is the cornerstone of reading, and reading is the foundation of all learning.
The more words kids know, the better readers they are and the more they learn. But all readers are limited to the reading level that equals their vocabulary level. If children know fourth grade words, they are limited to fourth grade books. If they know ninth grade words, they are limited to ninth grade books. Some students never make it past fourth or ninth grade words so they never make it past those reading levels. It is important that students' word levels grow so their reading levels grow.
What many parents and even teachers don't realize is that when kids are stuck on a low reading level, they choose books that are written on that level, so even though they are reading, their reading skills are not growing. Check to see what a child is reading. Harry Potter, for instance, is a very engaging book but it is on a fourth grade reading level. If sophomores in high school are reading that book for credit, they are not improving their reading skills. They are engaging in a wonderful form of entertainment, which is fine, but let's recognize it as entertainment and not education. Although the book may contain some very valuable life lessons that everyone should learn, it does not contain the word complexity that a high school student needs to succeed in school.
The best way to help a child raise his or her reading level is to increase his or her vocabulary knowledge of complex words. This is the single most powerful skill in improving reading proficiency and comprehension. Extensive vocabularies are essential for success in school. Continual vocabulary growth is vital for success in the workplace. New knowledge and perspectives are constantly flowing into every occupation and each one of them is identified with its own new vocabulary word. The ability to learn and remember new words all through life is one of the keys to success.
The National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs launched an extensive study on how to raise reading proficiency in this country and their findings identified complex vocabulary as the key to understanding text complexity. The importance of vocabulary cannot be overstated. After all, twenty years ago no one suggested we Google anything, looked into "cyberspace" or studied the effects of "fracking." Imagine anyone today who did not know the meaning of those words.
Jeanne Clements is a mother, prominent educator, perfect SAT verbal score holder and innovator of interactive vocabulary learning system, Verbal Education.