5 Ways to Build Vocabulary

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build vocabulary

One of the most important reasons to read to your child is, quite simply, to build an increased vocabulary. The larger your child’s vocabulary, the better able they will be to express themselves. Here are several ways in which reading time can be used to build your child’s vocabulary.

Change It Up

Try to express familiar concepts to your child in different ways. Introduce synonyms for words. Sometimes the best way to do this is to tell familiar stories in different ways. Perhaps try to find several different versions of a fairy tale and alternate reading them to your child. Alternately, while reading your child’s favorite story, work in different words than those written in the book.

For example, if a story talks about a monkey climbing up a tree, try substituting “climb” for “clamber,” “scale,” “ascend,” or other terms that describe the monkey going up that tree. If your child notices the change and questions it, talk to them about how some words have similar meanings.


Discuss the Books

After you read with your child, take some time to discuss what you’ve read. Encourage your child to think of new ways to express what they’ve heard and walk them through different ways to say things. Use associative terms—if the story was about a rainy day, talk about mud and puddles and raindrops and getting wet. Ask your child questions and be patient with their answers.


Perform Your Stories

Be expressive when you read. Use voices and changes in your pitch and tone to bring attention to tricky words. Draw out multi-syllable words and explain their meaning, then use them in more sentences. If something in a story is described as “fantastic,” draw out the sound of the word, then go on a bit of a tangent: “Fantastic means ‘great.’ Doesn’t that look great to you? It looks fantastic to me!”

If difficult terms are repeated over and over in a story, call them out and encourage your child to use them in sentences. If there are pictures, use them to highlight the term.



Many children learn visually. This is why picture and letter books are so important. Mix up as many different alphabet books and picture books as you can, explaining tricky words in terms of the illustrations present. Draw attention to similar pictures that have different descriptions and encourage your child to draw associations: an alligator is a reptile, for example, and a gorilla is an ape. An apple or an orange is a fruit, while broccoli or cabbage is a vegetable.


Embed Interesting Words

Talk and read with your child as much as possible. Choose books and topics with fun and interesting words. The more unique words you expose them to, the more you help to build your child’s vocabulary. Kids love the way new words sound, and when they’re young, learning to use language is fun. Take advantage of that and have some fun with them!


If you’re ready to start on the process of reading to build your child’s vocabulary, check out the A to Z of Fruits and Vegetables, then look at the rest of the fun eBooks and reading resources we have available.