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Invest In Your 'Intellectual Capital'


Today's Snack: Since individual words are the "seeds" of a big vocabulary, have a snack of your favorite kinds of seeds and nuts, and "water" them with a big glass of ice water!





Make or buy a little notebook that can serve as

your vocabulary "bank book"


Negotiate with your parent to "deposit" some kind of a reward

into your "account" for every hour that you spend reading for fun


It doesn't have to be money, although cash is always nice;

maybe you could read for 100 hours to "earn" yourself a

pet mouse or guinea pig, or maybe if you read 10 hours a week,

you and a friend could go to an amusement park -

whatever you like - just make a meaningful reward,




What's with adults, always harping on kids to read a lot of books so they can grow a bigger vocabulary?


What's wrong with going through life with the only words that come out of your mouth "awesome" or "whatever" all day, all month, all year?


Why take time away from TV, sports, your iPod, and hanging out with friends, to read difficult, boring books with complex language, stories and themes?


Well, you read a lot if you want to know a lot and be able to do better in school, and later on, in life.


Reading is like a paycheck for your brain: that's how you can "earn" new vocabulary words, and "deposit" them in your brain so that you become smarter and smarter.


And let's be clear: TV, sports, your iPod, and even your friends are not likely to do much, if anything, to improve your vocabulary. For that, you really need to be reading books for fun - maybe an hour a day, if you can manage it. That's an hour ABOVE AND BEYOND your homework reading.


And let's be clear on another point: the higher-level thinking that you do when you read complex books is anything BUT boring.


It's the best way to get a big vocabulary, and a big vocabulary is the best way to get a great future.


Vocabulary is the framework and the fuel for making dreams come true. Just as a business owner uses money to invest in more equipment and employees to expand sales and profits, you can use vocabulary to get you where you want to go, both with your education and your career.


But if you DON'T have a big vocabulary - if you DON'T know what a lot of words mean - you are going to face obstacles everywhere you turn. That's because the more words you know, the bigger your knowledge base and skill set - the more things you are going to be capable of reading, writing, thinking and doing.


In fact, they say, "Vocabulary is destiny."


According to education leader E.D. Hirsch, founder of the Core Knowledge series of quality curriculum (, a big vocabulary is the biggest and best boost to a high score on a college admissions test.


The SAT, for example, is based on a working vocabulary of 60,000 to 100,000 words. You can have that if you add about 15 new words a day to your vocabulary from ages 2 to 17.


But by definition, schoolbooks are written at or below your grade level. They don't introduce you to too many new words in a school year. You're lucky if you learn 15 new words a week, or a month, if you don't have your own vocabulary-building system.


The novels selected for most school curricula are far less well-written and use far fewer complex words as the classics, at least until high school. And even then, sometimes only the honors classes get to read the "big" books.


Why is this? Because so many students lack sufficient vocabulary to handle the "big" books. And that's because their parents didn't keep them reading outside school past a basic level of competence. So their vocabularies failed to grow.


The answer is that you need to be immersed in the world of language and knowledge - reading a lot of books outside of school.


Rich, well-educated parents know this, and make sure their children have a lot of books in their home, go to the library a lot, and always have a book in their backpacks to handle "down time" when it comes up.


`Books expose students to more words than they could ever hope to hear in class or read in textbooks, not to mention words of higher quality and complexity from a wider range of fields.


Books also are designed to create hope, curiosity, confidence and other positives in the reader. That isn't always the case with textbooks, which often descend into politicization, provocation, emotion and triviality.


Now, THERE are some big words that everybody ought to know!


By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010



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