When I was studying to be a teacher, one of the things affirmed in my studies was that reading is the best way to expand a person's vocabulary. Children learn more words by reading. Children learn more words by being read to. This concept was driven home to me this week during a visit by two of the granddaughters.
I was doing a wee bit of nudging (not fussing or bossing or harping - just nudging) to get Mike to eat some meat along with his choice of watermelon one evening. Later, Lillie asked me, "Why didn't Daddy Mike realize that he needed a bit more protein because of his blood sugar fluctuations?" Now, how many nine-year-olds know that meat is a source of protein? How many nine-year-olds use the word fluctuation in her vocabulary - and use it correctly?
Later, Mike jokingly made a comment that to prevent Lydia from bidding and buying something at the stock yard when we sold a few calves the next day, he would just leave them sitting in the truck. Lydia quickly responded, "Oh no you won't! We would smother in there!" What six-year-old knows about temperatures or uses the word smother in her vocabulary correctly?
The next day we went out to pick up a few items and I offered to drive through a couple of fast-food places to pick up some lunch. They picked their choice based upon the prize in the kid's meal. After placing our order and making a special request for certain prizes, I was being educated about their kid's meal prize collection. Lydia informed me that with these specific prizes, they would each have a "complete collection with only a couple of duplicates." What six-year-old even knows what the word duplicate means? (She does - I asked.)
The next day, Lydia and I were working on some patriotic decoration projects. Lydia was seriously stitching along and accidentally pulled the thread out of the needle. She informed me, "Grand B, I have a situation here." What six-year-old incorporates the word situation into her conversations?
Maybe one reason these girls have such a good vocabulary is because they have always been lucky to have folks read to them. Maybe another reason is because these girls are readers. One day we went to the public library and each of them chose five books to bring home and enjoy. Lillie read the four short picture books she checked out and read late into the night to complete five chapters of the other book. (She informed me she would like to check that book out again next time to finish reading the remaining chapters!) Lydia and I read one together. She did picture walks in three others and read the fifth one aloud to Mike and me. She was so excited to find it because it was one her kindergarten teacher had in the classroom this past year. As she was reading it, she informed us that it was "a work of fiction." Mike chuckled and asked her what was the meaning of the word fiction. She was quick to inform us that works of fiction might not really be true - like the book featuring a dog swallowing a duck, cow, cat, etc. and the vet pulling those animals out alive. Yet, she continued, non-fiction is all true. (Wouldn't her kindergarten teacher be proud?)
So, either our grandchildren are really borderline geniuses or reading has played a major role in developing their vocabulary. Right now, I'm not sure which option is the non-fiction one!