FAIRWEATHER: Knowledge of words can earn students money

Tommy Fairweather
Special to The Log
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 16:56 PM.

When I ask children if they would like thousands of dollars by the time they are eighteen, their eyes really light up.

I have at least two students who are seniors at the Northwest Florida State Collegiate High School that are getting tons of scholarship offers worth lots of money.  We are talking about $60,000.

Students who become good readers and excel in math can obtain college scholarship worth thousands of dollars. The major key to becoming a good reader is to develop a wide vocabulary. Learning to read requires some knowledge of how to pronounce and spell words (phonics) and the most important aspect of reading is understanding the meaning of words (comprehension).

A recent report on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress states that 4th graders average vocabulary score was 218 out of 500.  This gap indicates that children know less than half of the expected number of words according to a Wall Street Journal article, (12/6/12) “Students Fall Flat in Vocabulary Test” by Stephanie Banchero. 

She quotes Leslie Russell, a reading specialist as saying “the vocabulary scores could improve if students were more immersed in literacy at school and at home.” Russell added,

“We need to make more of an effort to get parents involved in teaching children reading and helping them to make sense of words they do not know.”

How can parents decide which words to focus on teaching their children?  The book, “Bring Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction” by Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown and Linda Kucan, indicates that there are three tiers of words. 

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