Why vocabulary is important for reading

This week, the Children’s Book Council of Australia is celebrating Book Week – a time when schools, libraries, book retailers, authors, illustrators and children come together to celebrate the joy of books and reading.

This year’s book week theme is…

‘Reading is My Secret Power’

We thought this would be a perfect time to highlight the power of a strong verbal vocabulary for your child’s reading.


Vocabulary plays a very important role for all levels of reading. Continuing to build your child’s vocabulary throughout their reading journey will provide them the ultimate power to unlock new information!


For our beginner readers:

Having a wide variety of words in their speaking vocabulary supports the ability to recognise the words they decode/sound out from written text. When little ones are learning to read and are sounding out the letters of a new word, they will be able to recognise the sounds as matching familiar words they already know – words that are in their vocabulary. As children continue reading and recognising these words in their vocabulary, this enhances their recall and therefore also reading fluency – creating an efficient reader. 


Without a well-established verbal vocabulary, children may struggle to make meaning of the word/s they are reading. This may impact recognition of these same words as they continue reading. For tips on building your child’s vocabulary, refer to the recent blog written by our Speech Pathologist Emma on how to teach vocabulary: https://www.cooeespeech.com.au/2019/08/how-to-teach-vocabulary


In the mid-primary school years and beyond:

Classroom teaching evolves to rely on reading in order for children to fully access their school curriculum. Therefore, it is expected that children are efficient readers and are able to accurately and fluently read through passages of text. For our advanced readers in later primary and high school years, understanding a variety of tier 2 & 3 vocabulary is essential to reading comprehension. Having a vast vocabulary of words will enhance the child’s ability to absorb the content they are reading. 


Furthermore, in possessing a vast vocabulary of words, children will be able to use the meaning they are able to interpret from their reading to learn new vocabulary that is often not used in verbal communication (otherwise known as tier 2 words). 


Consider the following passage, adapted from “The Colors of Animals” by Sir John Lubbock in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan):


“The color of animals is by no means a matter of chance; it depends on many considerations, but in the majority of cases tends to protect the animal from danger by rendering it less conspicuous. Perhaps it may be said that if coloring is mainly protective, there ought to be but few brightly colored animals. There are, however, not a few cases in which vivid colors are themselves protective. The kingfisher itself, though so brightly colored, is by no means easy to see. The blue harmonizes with the water, and the bird as it darts along the stream looks almost like a flash of sunlight.”


This passage contains a variety of tier two and three words, which are important for efficient reading comprehension. With parent-/teacher-support, a child will be able to use their knowledge of the common tier one words (such as colour, animal, blue, easy) and the context of the information to build a definition of new complex tier two and three words (such as considerations, rendering, vivid, harmonizes, conspicuous). 


Explicitly highlighting and discussing this new vocabulary with your child will continue to build their repertoire of words and enhance their access to and production of written language. 


If you are concerned regarding your child’s vocabulary or reading accuracy/comprehension, get in touch with one of our wonderful admin team to see how we can help you and your child. 


Contact us on phone 3265 4495 or via email at [email protected]