Vocabulary Words in Early Childhood Education

“The human brain is the most fabulous organ system in the universe.” Dr. Ben Carson
There are approximately 800 million people in the world that cannot read. Is that not astonishing here in the year 2019? So, we start with the people that cannot read and go up the scale as there are varying degrees of ability to read. The Fleishmann Reading Ease Test measures the difficulty of the words to read and classifies them into grade levels. Did you know the most common conversation we have is at a sixth-grade level?


Here’s where it gets interesting. Dr. Carson related the amazing performance of the human brain. The brain is truly like a sponge and absorbing information at incredible speed. The key to feeding and sustaining the brain’s development is reading! This desire to read must be instilled in our children early in life, far before they enter elementary school. Introduction of vocabulary words in early childhood education is imperative to building those reading skills.

Have you ever attempted to read a document in a foreign language? Maybe you could decipher a couple words but was not able to pull out enough information to determine what the document meant. You didn’t get the full understanding. That is exactly the problem many children and adults have when reading the English language. It is above their reading ability and they do not comprehend the vocabulary being used. Comprehension is an imperative skill in reading.

Your child brings you their favorite book to read for the 100th time. Instead of reading the book, or in addition to reading the book, talk about the meaning of the words, the meaning of the expression on the faces of the characters. Talk about the setting of the story; did it take place at dawn or evening? What is dawn? What is evening? Children do not automatically know these words and sometimes we forget to explain things. Why does Mommy see a doctor and the child see a Pediatrician? These are things that need to be explained to a child. They are vocabulary words.

Every book is filled with vocabulary words. There are three tiers of vocabulary words; tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3.

1. Tier 1 vocabulary words are your common everyday words that the child may not be familiar with but are used by the people around them. Tier one vocabulary words just need a definition and a link, so the child understands. For instance, a ‘clock’ tells us what time it is so we know when to get up, eat, play, and go to bed. That helps the child comprehend and brings meaning to what they are reading or what is being read to them. Pictures can certainly help with the explanation of the word, but if there is no picture, the child’s brain reads or hears the word and has no meaning to put with the word so it means nothing and they do not comprehend the full meaning of what was read.

2. Tier 2 vocabulary words would rank higher on the Fleishmann Reading test but are still common words in everyday language such as maintained, required, and performed. The child may know a simpler way of stating these words, however, as they learn their vocabulary must mature. For instance, instead of saying ‘required’, the child may say ‘have to’. Why do we do this? Because we have to. Why do we do this? Because it is required.

3. Tier 3 vocabulary words are domain specific. These words rate highest on the Fleishmann scale. These words are not common everyday words. The word stethoscope would be relative to the medical domain. A child would need to know what a stethoscope was when the doctor or Pediatrician listened to their heart. Words like comet, asteroid, planet would be specific to the space domain. When reading a story about space to a child those are the words you would explain.

The more vocabulary words you push-in, the higher reading ability the child will have. The higher the reading ability, the more they will learn and thus the more they can accomplish in life. It is here that I would like to view what is possible through the love of reading and comprehension. I want to direct you to the story of Dr. Ben Carson and how his life was impacted by his mother’s encouragement of his reading. Not every child will be a neurosurgeon but OH, what they things they could with all of that knowledge.

Author: Belinda Davis ©2019