Fancy Schmancy Words—Embrace or Avoid?
When choosing books for the younger readers in your life, how do you select the reading material? Do you choose books with a formula based on phonetic patterns? Do you seek books with that utilize mainly CVC and leveled high frequency words? Or, do you embrace books that have words that are a bit edgy, unfamiliar, and describe outside-the-box concepts?
All of the words listed above qualify as words that are NOT high frequency words or the typical CVC words that often come to mind when choosing early reading material. They contain difficult letter combinations, are unique, and contain multiple syllables. Yet, many if not most children in their early stages of reading can probably tell you what those words are—in or out of context. So begins the debate. Is a phonetic approach to reading best or should children be presented with reading material that focuses on use of context and picture clues? In reality, the best approach may be a combined approach. Debates will always continue on this subject. However, remember that in order to raise avid readers that can devour books as fast as they devour a slice of watermelon on a hot summer day—we must encourage budding readers to expand their reading vocabulary by presenting material that includes words that POP off of the pages.
When my oldest son was a mere toddler, he would sit for hours listening to and ‘reading’ stories that contained what I refer to as Fancy Schmancy words—words that bring a story to life, with or without the illustrations. Stories that have these types of words sprinkled across the pages are the stories that kids remember. (Dr. Seuss, what is a vug anyway? J)
For example, which sentence is more interesting?
When the balloon popped, the children ran away in different directions.
When the balloon burst, the children scattered.
The second sentence is shorter, but paints a more vivid picture for the reader—no illustration required.
If your child selects a book with words that are unfamiliar, there are many ways to help your child add that word to their reading vocabulary.
1. After you finish the book with your child, go on a fancy schmancy word scavenger hunt to identify new and interesting words.
2. Act out the words that you and your child have identified. Example: Once a child sees a dripping, runny, scoop of ice cream plop onto a hot sidewalk, they will definitely remember the meaning of that word.
3. After your child acts out the words, have your child tell another child what that word means, in their own words. Learning the formal definition of a word is much different than attaching a personal meaning to that word.
4. Illustrate the new words. This activity not only helps the child locate a word in text, but also taps into his or her imagination as well as practice fine motor skills.
Below are some examples of attaching a visual meaning to an unfamiliar word.
So, as Children’s Book Week (May 12-18) continues, please remember to select books that will be fun, memorable, and stretch the vocabulary of the young readers in your life.
For the record, I’d choose Fancy Schmancy.