The Wall Street Journal recently published an article highlighting the results of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. U.S. students knew only about 50% of what was expected on a new vocabulary section of this National Exam.
This article reiterated a sentiment made public by Terry Murphy, of Ansonia, Connecticut. Mrs. Murphy, a concerned grandmother, was highlighted on a local radio show where the challenge was discussed and solutions were created. The results were featured in this month's edition of Fairfield County Parent, a division of NY Metro Parent. Terry developed a program for school-aged children that she refers to as “My Mission in Life.”
Technology, while helping children learn in many areas, has not done much to increase vocabulary. It can be argued that it has decreased reading and writing skills. Children relying on “LOL” and “OMG” as substitutes for language are part of the challenge we face as a society. Additionally, children are entertained and engaged constantly and often with an electronic device in hand. Mrs. Murphy said, “Our children can name every Kardashian but cannot identify a bird in the back yard and the word bucolic may as well be a foreign language.”
Terry Murphy, happily using family savings for her mission, created a positive, fresh and old fashioned solution. With her parents example of a childhood filled with word games, Mrs. Murphy developed WordBirdDelivers.com “Our goal is simple; talk about and learn new words and take time to become more contemplative and meditative. Get your eyes off the ubiquitous screen and look at the birds in your back yard.”
She encourages everyone to “keep the conversation about vocabulary going in the home.” Play a game called “Stump your Parent.” Crack open a dictionary and find words that your parents do not know. Children enjoy teaching adults. Everyone wins because the child is exploring words, while engaging with an adult. What we value at home, parlays into the classroom. We become a team to teach children language skills for a lifetime.
Children with a strong and diverse vocabulary are better readers, more creative writers and confident public speakers. A life-long love of learning new words is a set up for success.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Leslie Russell, a reading specialist at Butts Road Intermediate School in Chesapeake, VA, “We need to make more of an effort to get parents involved in teaching reading and teaching them how to help children make sense of words they do not know.”
Mrs. Murphy has devoted herself to that very goal. If you want to explore ways to join her in that effort, contact her at Terry@WordBirdDelivers.com