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NEW BLOG POST: The first step to becoming a good reader: Talk A Lot

The first step to becoming a good reader: Talk A Lot

Both phonics and vocabulary comprehension are essential to becoming a good reader Before learning to read a word, the best first step is to know what the word means. Even little children need a big vocabulary. Children learn vocabulary best between birth and third grade. Smart literacy organizations get families to teach reading from the beginning (birth) with vocabulary comprehension (talking).

Schools are counting on children’s first teachers, their parents and caregivers, to teach them the vocabulary they need to understand what they read in school. Recent research study shows that if third grade, English speaking children do not understand the vocabulary they are decoding or the vocabulary in a book the teacher is reading, the teacher should stop the reading and start teaching vocabulary. The most important first step for becoming a good reader is having a large vocabulary in the language of the book. 

Two simple strategies can help parents and caretakers increase children’s vocabulary: Say-What-You-See and Take-Turns-5-Times


Babies learn to understand by touching and playing with objects and people in the world around them. By repeatedly naming what we see children doing we are giving children vocabulary so that they will understand that word when they hear it, say it and read it. So, 


Babies need to talk too. Crying is a word that means “help.” Sign language for the word “more” can be some children’s second word. By age two children can have conversations with a mom that let both of them communicate five times, even if moms are the only people who understand their children’s mispronounced words. Open-ended questions start a conversation: How can I help you? What should we do next? Why are you crying? What do you want to play?

Author Bio

Talmage M. Steele wrote and illustrated, The Gift of Words: How Do Children Learn to Talk? based on up-to-date research and her experiences as mother of two, and grandmother of three.  She has an M.Ed. from National Louis University in Early Childhood Education and is currently retired after fifteen years of experience working as an educator/consultant under a variety of grants with Chicago Public Schools.  She has worked as a facilitator, ECRS evaluator and mentor in many early childhood day care centers, as well as for arts-integrated curriculum projects. Her website is She can be reached at

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