Parents and children can both benefit from reading bedtime stories snuggled under the covers. “The words in many children’s books are often outside the realm of adults’ day-to-day discourse, so parents can learn more words just by reading to their children,” says Susan B. Neuman, professor of Childhood and Literacy Education at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University in New York City.
Watching the movie version of your favourite book isn’t just a guilty pleasure, it’s also a vocabulary booster. “If you see the movie version of your favourite book you’re likely to have a deeper understanding and knowledge of the words in it,” says Neuman. “Seeing and reading something on the same topic is really important.” The phenomenon is called dual coding; you read something, then see it on the screen and end up remembering better because you have a visual representation, she says.
Make good use of your tablet
Next time you’re reading an e-book and come across a word you don’t know, try highlighting it with your finger and looking for the option to look it up. Many tablets provide a dictionary definition in a little bubble, so you won’t lose your place or have to switch between Google and your novel.
Don’t just flip through your favourite magazine, really read it. That means don’t just look at the pictures or skim product roundups; pay attention to the articles and photo captions. According to the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, magazines on topics you’re interested in like sports, interior decorating, or health are filled with words you probably don’t think to use in your daily conversations. When you read the next issue, keep an eye out for the words you learned the month before; chances are, you’ll remember what they mean this time.
Listen to how words sound
Many people won’t remember tricky words unless they come across them frequently. But if you hear a word that you think sounds interesting, you become word conscious and start using it yourself, says Neuman.
Join a book club
“Book clubs are a wonderful strategy to learn new words,” says Neuman. Not only will it force you to set aside time in your day to read, it’s also a good way to discover books you might not normally be drawn to, which in turn exposes you to new words.
Listen to the radio
Spend your commute listening to talk radio or podcasts instead of zoning out. Those types of programs can expose you to topics (and subsequently words) you may not be familiar with.