The other day, my son was telling a relative something and he used the word “astonishing.” I made a mental note of it, being very proud of his vocabulary, and trying to remember the last book we read where he might have seen the word “astonishing.” I could not. We read so many books.
Other people present noticed he used the word as well, and seemed impressed.
It is astonishing when an eight-year-old uses the word “astonishing” in casual conversation, don’t you think? And I can only attribute that to our reading 1,000 books before kindergarten and about 30 minutes a day since their second week of life. Add to that turning off the TV and limiting screen time to only 30 minutes a day (usually YouTube videos or DVDs) and you have a recipe for building vocabulary.
We read so many books, I am astonished that we can keep up with them all in terms of not being late at the library. We have a big basket and all the library books go in there. When we are done reading them, they go in the basket. If the kids take the books to other rooms, we usually lose them. I have had to do a frantic search around the house when they become due. But that has only happened three times, I think.
Why is vocabulary so important? It is the top predictor of future success in the lives of children. Some researchers would say it is the only predictor of success for later in life. No amount of money or early intervention programs or expensive preschools or any other factor plays a role as much as the amount of words a child hears in childhood.
As a side note, bilingual or multilingual children have a clear advantage here, because for every word a monolingual child speaks, the bilingual knows two. A trilingual child knows three and so on. Another language doubles the vocabulary and the odds of future success.