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Background Knowledge & Vocabulary

Background Knowledge & Vocabulary

If student reading is limited because they read as little as possible, then year after year this lack of exposure compounds and can create problems with reading comprehension. After several years of minimal exposure to text, students miss out on different types of vocabulary and expanding their background knowledge on various topics.

Believe it or not, vocabulary and reading comprehension may also be negatively affected if a student solely reads fiction books. In these books, the type of vocabulary used tends to be very general. In non-fiction text, the vocabulary includes academic and technical vocabulary. This is a different type of vocabulary that is important for children to build their understanding of because it is often topic specific or supportive to a topic. This is especially true beginning in the middle school years.

The Remedy

Use Audio-books. This is considered ear reading because students are reading through listening.  Students with dyslexia should be encouraged to listen to books at their grade level and above so they are exposed to rich content and higher-level vocabulary. This is called, “ear reading”. When students get older, audio books can be set to read at a faster rate so students can hear more information in a shorter period of time. Audio books open the door to knowledge and continued learning when books are too labor intensive to read by eye (eye reading). In saying this, I’m not suggesting your student stops reading books altogether. I am suggesting that if your student is not reading at grade level or is taking too long to read, try using audio-books so their knowledge and vocabulary is not limited to text below their grade level. Two good sources for audio books are and

Students should also be encouraged to use new vocabulary when speaking and writing. You can make vocabulary cards or word journals to keep track of new words and their meaning. It will help if students hear and use higher level and technical vocabulary in conversation. In order to truly expand vocabulary, try to use all four methods of communication with the targeted words – speaking, reading, listening, and writing.


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