Using Children’s Literature to Improve Vocabulary and Written Expression in English

29 January 2016 By In Language Blog
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I get these recurring queries from teachers: “How do I improve English vocabulary?” and “How do I improve written expression?” and also “How do I help my students become more proficient in English?” Well, to be very honest, there is no sure-fire way to achieve these ambitions. However, I find that exposure to literature can definitely make this journey for both the student and the teacher relatively easier. How do I know this? I strongly believe that literature has an enormous impact on students’ lives and on their learning. Exploring children’s literature provides exposure to the target language in a natural context, which broadens students’ vision as they dive into the depths of reading. So, I always have my students begin with reading children’s literature. It not only leaves a positive impact on students’ attitudes, but also improves the writing ability of the learners. Literature arouses imagination, is a source of enjoyment and facilitates understanding of one’s ‘self’ and others (Raphael, 2000). Furthermore, literature has a variety of expressions set in contexts, which facilitates vocabulary development as well as exposing the reader to written expression.

Depending on students’ interest, various genres can be selected, though you need to start with what your students are interested in. For example, you can start with ‘The Famous Five’ or ‘Secret Seven’. What about the Harry Potter series, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and Ink Heart? My reason for choosing these in particular is that all of these are series. Once introduced to the students, I have found that the they become eager to read more, to ‘read the next book’, which generates an interest in reading and, as a consequence, the continued exposure eventually enriches their vocabulary and supports the development of their written expression. Classics like ‘Animal Farm’, ‘Charlotte’s Web’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ should also be added to my list of ‘must reads’.



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