Pram Jam with Beth – Building Baby’s Vocabulary

Welcome to another Pram Jam blog post, everyone! If you are a regular attendee of the Pram Jam sessions at either Spearwood or Coolbellup libraries, you may have heard me mention that I’ve been busily attending lately!  The State Library of Western Australia provides wonderful professional development opportunities for Public Library staff who deliver early literacy programs, I am so grateful for their support and encouragement in helping us to fulfill our very special role in working with young families throughout the City of Cockburn.

Baby reading on Mother's lap

Reading daily with your baby is the best way to build their vocabulary bank! 

Image Source: 2081671 from Pixabay (licence info)

The importance of hearing many words

The most recent training that I attended touched on the importance of regularly reading and conversing with our babies, in particular regard to introducing a wide and varied vocabulary which is what our preschoolers draw on when they begin reading. The larger a child’s vocabulary or repertoire of ‘heard words’, the better their comprehension levels and decoding abilities with tricky text. Makes sense, right? If you’ve only heard a limited range of words, you will struggle with sounding out those rarer, less obvious ones later on – this is due to how our brains recognise patterns in text and speech. And because babies’ brains are more programmable before they reach school age, exposure to those words early is key. Clever, hey?

Read all the books!

Obviously this stuff fascinates me, I get a real kick out of learning new information and then introducing new ideas to our regular library programs. I also love to pour over new books and pick out titles to add to our Pram Jam shelf, and I am in my happy place right now with the new Children’s Book Week books coming in! I’m going to pick a few new titles and a few older titles to list as my suggestions for this blog, but I also want to mention:  it really doesn’t matter so much what you’re reading with your baby. The act of reading, modeling how to hold the book, tracking words from left to right on the page with your finger, changing pitch and modulation to match the story, all of these will add to your child’s decoding skills which will come into play when they become independent readers.

Books that Build Vocabulary Banks in babies

Why I love summer / by Michael Wagner ; illustrated by Tom Jellett.

This one is a wonderful, on-topic vocab builder for Australia toddlers! It also has fabulous opportunities for extension reading, with direct dialogue and environmental print in the illustrations. This title is one of our Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable books for 2019, and while it didn’t make the shortlist, I still encourage you to check it out (boom boom – library humour!).

Cover image for : Why I love summer / by Michael Wagner ; illustrated by Tom Jellett.
Cover image for: Linda Jackson's rainbow menagerie

Linda Jackson’s rainbow menagerie.

I think that this may just be my favourite example of a vocabulary extending book (well, for today anyway! I may find a new favourite tomorrow and that is just part of the joy of my job!). Using a gorgeous shadow on rainbow style of illustration, Linda Jackson introduces a plethora of new words and Australian animals to young readers through her engaging, first person dialogue. I think that this will become one of our repeat loans, my 5 year old loves to play ‘I’m thinking of an animal’ (my family’s variation on eye spy) and the information in this book will add a whole new dimension to our questions!

Beware the deep, dark forest / Sue Whiting ; [Illustrations by] Annie White.

Ooh, the wonderful words in this book make me feel all mooshy!  Venemous. Carnivorous. Bristly. Brute. Plaited. Menacing. Squelched. Ravine.  These words and more are repeated throughout the story and it’s an engaging read for all. I thoroughly recommend browsing this one.

Cover Image for: Beware the deep, dark forest / Sue Whiting ; [Illustrations by] Annie White.
Cover Image for Technicolour treasure hunt : learn to count with nature / Hvass&Hannibal.

Technicolour treasure hunt : learn to count with nature / Hvass&Hannibal.

The chunky tabs of this board book make it perfect for first ‘readers’ to turn the pages themselves, and the introduction to 10 new words on each page with the correlating pictures to find makes it a wonderful engaging vocabulary packed shared read. There are actually 2 books in this series and they’re both wonderful.

The million word gap

There is an often referenced, much disputed theory that babies who aren’t read to regularly suffer from a massive ‘word gap’ once they get to school, in comparison to their more vocab packed peers. If you’re interested here’s a link to one of the recent articles. It is certainly worth keeping the word gap in mind as one of the added benefits of regular reading with youngsters.  I love to share new words with my 5 year old, explaining meanings to him, giving him synonyms and sentence suggestions. I suppose that, just possibly, I may have a bit of a thing for words. Actually I do remember browsing the thesaurus as part of my nightly reading habit as a child… what, didn’t everyone? 

So, hopefully everyone is feeling encouraged to continue with actively exposing our babies and toddlers to All.The.Words. It totally makes sense in my brain that the more we hear, the more we can hope to understand and the more connections we can make between words we know and words that are unfamiliar. I am looking forward to introducing lots of new words to the Pram Jam babies in coming sessions, and I would love to hear your own suggestions for helpful vocab building books and games. Happy reading everyone!