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Building a vocabulary

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, April 2021; written by Ann Marie Meiresonne.


Vocabulary or knowing the meaning of words including the names of things, feelings, concepts and ideas is an important early literacy skill for children. The bigger a child’s vocabulary on entering kindergarten the stronger the platform from which a child springs off to learn to read. As a child understands more words, the easier it will be to recognize words correctly, as they try to sound them out. In addition, the more words a child knows the better they will understand what they are reading.

A rich vocabulary environment includes everyday words and complex rare words. Frequently used common words such as those used when talking about the shopping list at the grocery store, describing the steps to make a child’s favorite treat, explaining everyday tasks and play are important to introduce and reinforce from an early age.


To introduce complex vocabulary, words we do not use in our everyday talk, one of the richest source is picture books. Reading a variety of stories with illustrations and information texts for children daily builds a child’s exposure to those rare, rich words.

Even if you have books at home, browsing the collections at the Ketchikan Public Library will introduce you and your family to a multitude of new authors, illustrators, stories, subjects as well as information picture books that you may not even be aware of to expose your child to these more complex not typical daily words. Board books, picture books, biography picture books, animal books, books about cars, trucks, helicopters, dinosaurs and so much more that can peak a child’s interest so they want to listen to more. In addition, variety in reading material helps the reader stay engaged as well as the listener.


Positive experiences around books and reading enables children to stick with learning to read even when it becomes difficult. Children given the chance to hear and use vocabulary in a playful setting remember those words far better than straightforward instruction.


Vocabulary develops over time. Daily reading aloud, even on days when there is only time for a few minutes, in addition to talking with children about daily tasks such as taking a bath, what is being prepared for dinner, etc. all help in building a child’s vocabulary.


Come in to explore the wide variety of books in the children’s collection at the Ketchikan Public Library. Staff members are at the desk to help you with subjects of assorted interests, and can introduce new authors and gems hidden among the stacks.

The library is open Monday thru Saturday 10am to 6pm. Call (907)225-3331 with questions and check out our social media accounts to find STEAM, sewing, stories, songs and more. Maker bags for adults, teens and families are available as well.


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