Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Childhood Classroom


I t seems almost intuitive that developing a large and rich vocabulary is central to learning to read. Logically, children must know the words that make up written texts in order to understand them, especially as the vocabulary demands of content-related materials increase in the upper grades. Numerous studies have documented that the size of a person’s vocabulary is strongly related to how well that person understands what he or she reads, not only in the primary grades, but in high school as well. Yet here’s the practical problem. Right from the beginning of schooling, there are profound di erences in vocabulary knowledge among young learners from di erent socioeconomic groups. Just consider the following statistics: by age 4, a child’s interaction with his or her family has already produced signi cant vocabulary di erences across socioeconomic lines, di erences so dramatic that they represent a 30 million word “catastrophe” (i.e., children from high-income families experience, on average, 30 million more words than children from low-income families).* Recent analyses indicate that environmental factors associated with vocabulary development and emergent literacy skills are already present among children as early as 15 months of age. By first grade, unfortunately, the repercussions become all too clear: children from high-income families are likely to know about twice as many words as children from low-income families, putting these children at a signi cantly higher risk for school failure. Even more disturbing, however, is that these statistics are often treated as inevitable, more or less a byproduct of poverty or lowincome status. ink of the consequences! is would mean that these children could be designated as reading failures before they ever enter through the schoolhouse doors. Luckily, there is now a rich and accumulated new knowledge base that suggests a far di erent scenario. Consider these points:

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Neuman2014TeachingVI, title={Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Childhood Classroom}, author={Susan B. Neuman and Tanya S. Wright}, year={2014} }