How Reading Increases Our Vocabulary
Education Blog, Reading Activities

How Reading Increases Our Vocabulary

Pick up the nearest book and quickly thumb through it. Chances are there is at least one word in it that you are not familiar with and do not know its meaning.

When we read, it is not uncommon to find new words, words that are not in our vocabulary, words that are not used in ordinary conversations.

So you might be saying right about now, “If they’re not used that often, then it’s not really necessary to know them.”

It’s true that we may not use these words much, but that doesn’t mean they are unnecessary. Many of the more uncommon words are used in specific ways for a particular job or to accompany a particular skill. Other words are used in formal settings in place of the informal words of everyday conversations.

Row of books on a shelf | Vocabulary

Reading books on a variety of topics introduces us to these words. Often we can tell by context what a word means. Other times we might have to pull out a dictionary (or more than likely use an online dictionary) to look up the definition.

Once we have learned the new word, we should try to remember it and add it to our vocabulary, so we have it if we ever need to use it.

I’m an online English teacher to speakers of other languages, particularly children and young people. One of the main ways that I teach is through reading. My students and I have read all sorts of books together, and I explain the less common words to expand their vocabulary.

I read a lot of old books that I have downloaded off the internet onto my e-reader. It is common to run across a word I don’t know, and a handy feature on my e-reader is a built -in dictionary. That has helped me when I came to a new word and wondered what it meant.

Another area, similar to vocabulary, that reading helps is spelling. When you hear a word, you don’t always know how to spell it, especially since some words aren’t spelled anything like they are pronounced. But when you read a word, you see how it is spelled.

An open book on top of another book

There’s just one problem with learning to spell words this way: you have to be sure the author is from your own country, so they spell words the way they are commonly spelled in your country.

I have read so many books by British authors that I forget sometimes if it is honour or honor, grey or gray, colour or color. (For those of you who aren’t sure, the first spelling of each word is British and the second is American.)

In my study guides, I often include a section with vocabulary words and activities for using them. Looking through each chapter, I choose words that are likely unfamiliar to the students.

Those words become the vocabulary words for that chapter. By using the vocabulary words in sentences and matching the words with their definition, the students reinforce the words in their minds.

So have you learned any interesting words lately in your reading?


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