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Family Dinner Conversations Promote Vocabulary in Kids

You can increase your parenting skills with family dinner conversations. Better yet you'll be increasing your children's vocabulary and literacy too. Our parenting expert and author, Ellen Galinsky, shares the research of Catherine Snow in Ellen's book, Mind in the Making. Let's find out the truth behind Snow's research. 

The Research about Children's Literacy

In the research 80 low-income families with three-year-old children were visited when the kids were three, four, and five. The children were tested on their literacy skills too. The parents taped their dinner conversations.

Parents Use a Sophisticated Vocabulary, Snow Says:

In these dinner table conversations, of course, there's always a lot of talk about "Eat your peas" and "Keep your elbows off the table" and Pass the noodles," but in some of the families, in addition, there's wonderfully interesting conversation about what proposals the governor just suggested for the new budget, or how the construction of the expressway is going to influence the neighborhood.

And these conversations are full of wonderful words like budget and governor and proposal and neighborhood-words that children might not use and probably don't understand fully. We found that families that used words like that in their dinner table conversations had children with much larger vocabularies two years later.

So part of vocabulary acquisition is learning the words that are going to be important in school, the words that second-grade teachers think when a child uses them,

"Oh, wow, that was a good word; that's a smart kid."

Those words are signals about the sophistication of the child's thinking. And of course they are also tools for thinking.

The difference between knowing three thousand words and knowing fifteen thousand words when you arrive at kindergarten is enormous. The child who knows three thousand words know words like shoes and milk and jump. The child who knows fifteen thousand words knows words like choice and possibility-words that index a more complex array of possibilities for dealing with the world.

Parenting Skills

Parent-talk does not mean baby talk, talking down to preschool-aged children, or a constant flood of words. Using meaningful, grown-up words with children as they enter the toddler and pre-school years helps them learn and appreciate new words."

An Exercise:  What Do Your Dinnertime Conversations Sound Like?

Listen to your mealtime conversations as if you are a researcher. What did you learn? (from pages 126-129)

I liked the common sense way Catherine Snow conducted the research. The results show the importance of family dinner conversations. The next time our family gets together with the grandkids, I plan on doing the suggested exercise. How about you?

Pick up Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs 

  Cover ~ Mind in the Making
Available at Amazon.com

Let's APPLAUD Ellen Galinsky for bringing Catherine Snow's research to us and for sharing a practical tip on how to increase our children's vocabulary at the dinner table.

      Ellen Galinsky         Applause_18229118

       Ellen Galinsky


Sit back, relax, and share your opinions about this blog post. Please comment in the tiny comment link below. We want to hear from you.

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With warm wishes,

Jean Tracy, MSS

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