Key To Long Term Reading Success
The Central Importance of Vocabulary
It seems almost impossible to overstate the power of words; they literally have changed and will continue to change the course of world history.
Perhaps the greatest tools we can give students for succeeding, not only in their education but more generally in life, is a large, rich vocabulary and the skills for using those words. Our ability to function in today’s complex social and economic worlds is mightily affected by our language skills and word knowledge.
In addition to the vital importance of vocabulary for success in life, a large vocabulary is more specifically predictive and reflective of high levels of reading achievement. The Report of the National
Reading Panel (2000), for example, concluded, “The importance of vocabulary knowledge has long been recognized in the development of reading skills. As early as 1924, researchers noted that growth in reading power relies on continuous growth in word knowledge”
Vocabulary or Vocabularies?
In everyday conversation we speak of vocabulary in the singular; we speak of a person’s vocabulary.
This is actually an oversimplification. The American Heritage Dictionary defines vocabulary as “the sum of words used by, understood by, or at the command of a particular person or group.” In this paper we are concerned with extending the sum of words that are used by and understood by students.
However, it seems important to point out that in almost all cases there are some differences in the number of words that an individual understands and uses. Even the terms “uses” and “understands” need clarification. For example, the major way in which we “use” vocabulary is when we speak and write; the term expressive vocabulary is used to refer to both since these are the vocabularies we use to express ourselves. We “understand” vocabulary when we listen to speech and when we read; the term receptive vocabulary is used to refer to listening and reading vocabularies. Finally, to round out the terminology, meaning or oral vocabulary refers to the combination of listening and speaking vocabularies, and literate vocabulary refers to the combination of our reading and writing vocabularies.
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