Is Your Child’s Vocabulary Causing Poor Reading Comprehension?

There are two areas of reading that need to be fixed before Year Four, accuracy and comprehension. Some children have problems with accuracy or comprehension others have problems in both areas. That is why it is extremely important to have a professional check the extent of reading difficulties.

Accuracy is the ability to read words correctly and fluently. This area includes automatic recall of high frequency words, phonics, blending, decoding and fluency. Comprehension relates to meaning. This reading component includes prior knowledge, picture interpretation, vocabulary and comprehension. This article will concentrate on the area of vocabulary as a basic step in learning to understand.
                                                                      Holocaust Memorial in Berlin
This week before going to school my Year Three grand-daughter started telling her mother and I that she had to give a talk about her heritage. She told us that she was going to do the talk on Germany. Somewhere she had heard that her background had some German connection and she seemed interested.
The discussion continued and she asked if I could find some information about festivals. We sat at the computer and did a Google search and found The Oktoberfest. She was a little abhorred by the drinking and preferred to tell her class about the tradition and the music and art.

Next came the question about commemorations. Wow, what were we going to come up with for a Year Three student? We took the hook and told her that the German people commemorate the Holocaust. We had opened a can of worms. The school gate looked close so I wasn’t too perturbed. However, we were begged to finish our stories. Finally, we broke FREE!!!

Why have I relayed this story? Well, throughout this conversation we had discussed a lot of words, concepts and historical knowledge. We had explained, and as all family do, we used “backyard language” or informal language to help our little girl understand. She had to learn to say the words correctly as well as know their meanings. She learnt all of this before school and on the drive there. She is now highly interested in learning about all that we had discussed. She was lucky to have a great teacher who allowed this bright little button to extend her learning and to do this with her family as well as the school.
What next

Once the vocabulary is introduced the child has to be exposed frequently to the words being used in different ways so that the meaning is generalised. With little children it is important to only introduce a few words every two or three weeks. Otherwise the words will not be used in the child’s oral and written language. My grand-daughter will be able to manage the amount of new vocabulary that we introduced. Your child might require this extension too. Go slower with children who are struggling with vocabulary.
The words need to be on cards around the wall with the meanings below until they are consolidated. A topic as broad as the Holocaust requires more investigation. My grand-daughter has seen the movie, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" so she had a little background of the Holocaust. We don’t intend to burden her with all the historical information until she is ready but she will receive the simplified child’s version of the story and its effect on humanity. We will use a variety of tools to explore the vocabulary, the history the values and concepts. Videos, oral language, plays, research, u-tube and books will all be used to gather meaning and knowledge.

What is interesting about this anecdote is that the child really controlled the vocabulary journey. That is what happens when children are motivated by professional classroom teachers who work with the home to achieve great results.
Our informal lesson began with finding meaning for vocabulary and then generalising that vocabulary so that it would be used in different contexts with accuracy. I don’t think that this child will forget about the new vocabulary and the history of the Holocaust. She will find it easy to read and understand about this event because by exploring vocabulary she has built prior knowledge for any other reading or study that she will access in the future.
Give your children experiences that will help them to access meaning about their world that will help them gather more information about this topic at a more complex level at a later time.


 Ann Foster has spent a 30 years in Education as talented teacher who delivers results quickly. Her Master degrees in Special Needs and Counselling and Guidance position her to help children with special needs. Ann is Principal of an online tutoring business, Letter Box, which caters for primary school children in reading, writing and spelling.