Vocab Lab For The Young Reader

Reading comes to life in these Vocab Lab activities! With a little energy and the right ingredients—including the newspaper—parents can transform non-readers into readers. Sources: National Institute for Literacy, LiteracyConnections.com and ThinkExist.com. Distributed by the NIE Institute.

ACTIVITY 1  Just as oxygen and hydrogen combine to make water (H2O), sounds go together to form words. Use the word LEG to show your child how each letter makes a sound in the word. Together, think of other words that begin with the L sound and write them on a piece of paper. Now look through the newspaper for other simple words. Write the words down and, together, sound out each letter and word.

In words such as “map,” each letter makes a sound. Other words use several letters to make one sound — the “a” sound in “eight,” for example. Look through the newspaper for more examples of words that use several letters to make one sound. Make a list of the letters and the sounds they represent.  

ACTIVITY 2  You won’t find a science lab without a periodic table. And you can’t have a Vocab Lab without the alphabet. To help your child grasp the role of each letter, focus on a different one each day. Write the “letter of the day” in the middle of a sheet of paper. Together, look through the newspaper and cut out words that begin with that letter. Then practice saying the words, emphasizing the letter of the day.

Most words use combinations of letters. Look through the newspaper for words that are the most difficult to pronounce and write them down. Practice sounding them out. How many letters combine to form each sound?

ACTIVITY 3  The eyes of an experienced reader can race through a book or article, knowing when to pause and what to emphasize. But a beginning reader might spend too much time trying to fit letters together. You can be a reading coach. Find a newspaper story of interest to your child and select one sentence from it. You can also use a child’s book with large type. Read the sentence out loud, pausing and raising or lowering your voice in the right places. Then ask your child to read it, three or four times, with you giving feedback.

ACTIVITY 4  Students become better readers as they increase their vocabulary. Help beginning readers learn new words by reading to them and encouraging them to read on their own. You can also teach new words by discussing their meaning before the child reads them. Find several new words in a newspaper story or children’s book and write them on a piece of paper. Talk to your child about the meaning of the  words. Then read the newspaper or book together. Discuss the new words when you’re finished.

Find a word in a textbook or newspaper that is unfamiliar to you. You’re going to learn it today! First, guess what the word means by thinking about its root, prefix, and suffix. Then look up the word. Were you close? Try to work the word in to conversation or writing today.

ACTIVITY 5  After an experiment in a science lab, you would look at the result to make sense of what happened. In Vocab Lab, readers need to make sense of what they read. Help young readers think about what they’ve read by taking these steps:

1. Ask her to summarize — in her own words — what she read.
2. Ask her about something in the reading she didn’t describe.
3. Help her go back and find the answer.
4. Clarify any ideas or words that confuse her.
5. Talk about what could happen next in the reading.

ACTIVITY 6  When a reader has to pause and “decode” a word — even a simple word — the interruption hurts his comprehension. Help your young reader memorize his list of “sight words” by giving examples of the words in use. Some words are especially hard to define for example: are, for, in, out, the, any, has, or, and, can and is.  Pick a hard-to define word and, using photos in the newspaper, make up simple phrases using the word. Then encourage your child to use the word.

The more you read, the more words you add to your “sight words” list. Recognizing so many words instantly allows you to breeze along in your reading. Do this experiment: read a paragraph in news stories you find about sports, entertainment, business, and politics. Underline the words you have to “decode.” Which story has the most?