Children’s Picture Books Use More Sophisticated Words Than You

Clutching. Whimpered. Famished. Escargot. Lavish. Indulged. These are just a few of the words Bubba and I came across today while reading picture books from our library. Obviously, these are words that Bubba would only be exposed to through picture books (my wife and I definitely don’t use words like these around the house), but that’s one of the main reasons I think it’s so important to read aloud to him.


I’ve known for years that reading aloud to children is one of the best ways to build their vocabulary, but I’ve been reading a book for teachers, The Fluent Reader by Timothy Rasinski, that has me really focused on the subject lately.


In his book, Rasinski dedicates an entire chapter to the benefits of reading aloud to children. He argues that one of the ways children benefit from a read aloud is they get to “explore sophisticated words and text structures.” Needless to say, since reading that section of his book, I’ve been noticing all the rich vocabulary and sophisticated sentence structures in the picture books that I’m reading to Bubba.


I’m seeing words like precisely, residence, uncomplimentary, amends, and meddle in just one short book… so it makes sense when Rasinski mentions an article that argues, “Most printed material, even a children’s book, has more sophisticated words than nearly every form of oral language.” (Cunningham and Stanovich, 1998)


It’s kind of crazy to think that picture books (written for children) use more sophisticated vocabulary than I use, but it’s true… and it’s one of the best reasons for reading aloud to kids!


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2 responses to “Children’s Picture Books Use More Sophisticated Words Than You

  1. Read and talking with kids from a very early age makes all the difference. Reading is then fun and no one need know they are learning vocabulary. 🙂

  2. jane

    I’ve just come across your blog and I totally agree about the language. My daughter uses all sorts of unusual words in her everyday speech that have come from reading books.

    I have a couple of questions… what do the asterisks mean in your Books Read list? Do you read the library books more than once? What if you borrow a book that is written for an older child? Do you make notes of books to come back to when Bubba would be more appreciative/understanding of the content?

    Interesting about your library book count… Our local library has about 4000 picture books, but at any time about 2500 of those are checked out. So I wonder if you are skipping more than you realize? I wonder if your library can give you a list of their stock, so you can check them off.

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