Development of Vocabulary

Toddlers learn-to-read phase

In a study by Roskos and Burstein (2011:268), it showed that the development of vocabulary during preschool teaching should happen on a casual basis, but by a specific teaching technique. 

Vocabulary is the basis of language and literacy (Roskos & Burstein, 2011:269). The formation of vocabulary from birth is an ongoing process, because humans are constantly learning new words and using the new words in the correct context (Jalongo & Sobolak, 2011:421). It is therefore necessary for the child to be part of extensive discussions through listening and to be actively involved. Parents, teachers, family members, friends and caregivers should always converse with the child / learner by using correct and pure vocabulary. 

New words for example can be pointed out, repeated and used in the right context with different examples. So during any routine activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, story time or a car ride, the opportunity can be used to develop vocabulary and to explain the meaning of the new words. Newly formed vocabulary gives the learner confidence (Roskos & Burstein, 2011:269). 

Reading of storybooks to the child / learner by an adult, is an indispensable requirement for the formation of vocabulary. Imaginative play, when dramatizing a situation, is rich in vocabulary and provides the opportunity to create new words (Roskos & Burstein, 2011:270). 

Storybooks make the child / learner familiar with the language and by reading storybooks it teaches the child / learner vocabulary at a higher level than the everyday informal communication. The child’s / learner’s vocabulary thereby improves and this serves as a preparation for reading (Verhallen & Bus, 2010:54). 


Jalongo, M. R. & Sobolak, M. J. 2011. Supporting young children’s vocabulary growth: The challenges, the benefits, and evidence-based strategies. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38:421-429. 

Roskos, K. & Burstein, K. 2011. Assessment of the design efficacy of a preschool vocabulary instruction technique. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25 (3):268-287. 

Verhallen, M. & Bus, A. 2010. Low-income immigrant pupils learning vocabulary through digital picture storybooks. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102 (1):54-61. 


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