As children read, they come across new words that they may not have been exposed to in their oral language. In order for comprehension to occur, children must have word knowledge, or vocabulary, in addition to reasoning skills. Vocabulary is often taught as part of comprehension, as questions that ask a reader to determine the meaning of a word as it is used in the context of the story.
According to the National Reading Panel, vocabulary instruction is most effective when it is taught in a variety of ways. Children should be explicitly taught specific words selected from texts that they are reading. In addition to specific word instruction, children should be taught word-learning strategies, such as how to look up words in a dictionary, or how to determine a word’s meaning based on its roots. Finally, children can strengthen their vocabulary incidentally by participating in language-rich experiences both at home and at school, being read to, and reading independently.