The Importance of Vocabulary for Young Children

The importance of vocabulary for reading is unquestionable.
Children might be really great at sounding words out (decoding) but actually
might not understand what they read (comprehension) due to under-developed vocabulary.

For instance, Biemiller (2001) postulated that vocabulary size and reading comprehension are strongly correlated.
In other words, the better vocabulary children have, the better they understand texts.
This correlation has been reported by several reliable studies.

It actually makes perfect sense.
Read a book in a language you don’t know proficiently and you will find this relation for yourself.

However, the critical role of vocabulary reaches far beyond children’s reading.
Well-developed vocabulary helps children become better writers, thinkers, speakers and importantly learners.

Cunningham & Stanovich (1997) found out that knowledge of vocabulary in 1st grade was a strong predictor of both reading comprehension and general knowledge in the 11th-grade.
Children who had better vocabulary at the beginning of school became better readers and learners eleven years later. Interestingly, this relation was still prominent even if children’s cognitive skills were taken into consideration.

It should not surprise that vocabulary knowledge is regarded as a prerequisite for children’s educational success.



Biemiller, A. (2001). Teaching vocabulary: Early, direct, and sequential. American Educator25(1), 24-28.

Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1997). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later. Developmental psychology, 33(6), 934