How effective are vocabulary books for young children?

In recent years, it seems that vocabulary exercise books have started to fall out of favour in certain quarters of the UK education sector, as increasing numbers of schoolteachers and educators gradually start experimenting with alternative methods of expanding children’s vocabulary. Now, just to be clear – we’re certainly not about to set out an argument against that here at EPSL! The education industry is constantly evolving to keep up with the modern world, so a certain level of experimentation and open-mindedness is always positive and beneficial.

How effective are vocabulary books for young children?

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that vocabulary books should be left by the wayside. In fact, they remain a powerful teaching aid to help children improve their reading skills and enhance their active language, especially when they’re co-ordinated with a wide range of complementary teaching strategies. Of course, every child is different, so some may end up getting more out of vocabulary books than others, but that doesn’t diminish their usefulness as an educational tool, especially considering the universality of the benefits they have to offer.

They make comprehension easier by reducing cognitive load

Vocabulary books are incredibly useful for teaching children sight words, and other common words or phrases that can help advance their general learning. As children become more advanced and confident, they can move on to bigger and more complex words, which they will typically first approach by reading them phonetically.

Over time, vocabulary books can help them commit both these simple and complex words entirely to memory. This effectively reduces the cognitive load required for them to decode longer sentences, allowing them to read more confidently and fluently without having to slow down and read certain words or phrases out loud. What’s more, if necessary they can use this extra cognitive space to focus on the trickier aspects of grammar or structure.

In a nutshell; the more vocabulary that children can memorise, the easier that reading will be.

They grant children greater confidence and control over their own learning

Just like any other type of exercise book, vocabulary books can act as a written record of topics covered in class, and one that students can refer back to as they feel is necessary. That makes them a great complement to group spoken language exercises.

This is largely because though the latter have always been one of the most important ways to help children improve their vocabulary and command of language, it’s not unusual for some children to find them intimidating, especially if they feel that some of their classmates are mastering their own vocabulary or language skills more quickly. Personal exercise books and vocabulary books can therefore act as a useful (and possibly discreet) reminder of skills and words they’ve already learned, one which can be freely accessed without any adult intervention or other kind of outside help.

By providing the ability to quietly refresh key skills, vocabulary books can be invaluable for helping children to maintain their own confidence and self-esteem, especially if they’re shy or embarrassed about asking for help. Similarly, children who are confident enough can forge ahead to new and more challenging words on their own, encouraging a passion for the subject and allowing them to take even greater control of their own learning.

school exercise books

Vocabulary books can present words in a variety of engaging formats

For some people, it’s easy to think of ‘vocabulary books’ as containing little more than exhaustively long lists of words to words to commit to memory. But while it’s true that these can be useful in their own right, modern vocabulary books actually present their information in a wide variety of formats, including different games and activities to keep students engaged. (As we touched on above, these constitute some of the many techniques that are especially effective when used in tandem with other classroom teaching strategies.)

Another effective method that many vocabulary books use to communicate new words is to present them in the form of stories, empowering children by enabling them to work out these new words using the surrounding context. In doing so, they help to give children not just an understanding of their surface-level meaning, but also of their deeper meanings and subtexts, giving them a greater insight into how they’re normally used in everyday conversation.

They support home learning

As well as providing a useful record for children, vocabulary books can also be taken home to provide a handy reference for parents too. Home learning is a hugely important part of normal childhood development, and vocabulary books can help parents gain a greater understanding of how to support their child’s learning in class, whether that’s through home reading, building their vocabulary through conversation, or helping to encourage children in areas where they may be lacking confidence or otherwise struggling.

It’s worth saying here that this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the advantages that vocabulary books and similarly specialised exercise books have to offer - you may well be able to think of one or two of your own! We provide a brilliant choice of vocabulary books and personalised exercise books here at EPSL - with more than 40 years of experience behind us, we’re top of the class when it comes to producing resources and learning solutions for schools, so you can count on us to provide answers in as much or as little detail as you need. Feel free to give us a call on 01254 686 500!

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