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October 31, 2003



This is an incredible article. When our children were small, their father was often away from home because of his work. I had the privledge to be a stay at home Mom and during the first five years of their lives, there was never a day went by that I did not read to them even as young as three months. If they came to me with a book, I always took time to read at least a part of it to them. I believe this exercise instilled the love of words in them. Of course, the books in the beginning were The Little Golden Books (we still have all 151 of them) but as they grew older, the level of reading increased as well. Also, every new word was looked up in the dictionary and explained to them, rather than just jumping over it. Both could read at grade three level before going to school and
to this day, they both have a library that would be the envy of anyone who loves to read. They both belong to a book club in Toronto where they meet and discuss books they have all been assigned to read.It is not uncommon to visit their homes and see a list of "new words to use" on their bulletin boards.Both are bilingual and can hold their own in either language.
Their vocabulary is such that our daughter, on more than one occassion in high school, was accused of "swallowing a dictionary." Our son, in grade 11, after giving a speech was chastised by the judge as using words that would only be found in a thesauris. I believe that kids under the age of six have minds like sponges and at this age the retention of information is incredible.
When they were home recently, our son commented that if he were to come home and start a business, he would open a "speech therapy school of proper pronounciation ". He figured he'd make a killing here.
Something that is a mystery to me is how our two children who were raised on PEI since they were infants ,managed to escape the local dialect. Neither has ever had the Island accent, used the dreaded word "heche" for the letter "H", or have been known to say "yusguys". I believe being threatened by their parents on the last one might be the reason there. I, on the other hand, have been blessed with the Northern Nova Scotia accent and it has now been crossed with the Island lingo, which is why I cannot figure out how the kids escaped it.

robert paterson

Hi Jean - it's great to have the voice of experience here. An indicator of vocab is also the number of books in the house - it's a marker of family culture.

The accent and slang issue is very interesting for me coming from a society, England, where how you speak immediately categorizes you. English has a huge vocab with many many shades of meanings. If you have a large vocab maybe you don't need slang as a filler?


Rob, regarding your last comment. I think you are spot on. Mom always insisted that people who would use swear words as adjectives, showed their lack of education because they lacked the knowledge of words. I expect slang fits in that same catagory. Speaking of lacking, Christopher's Mother, thinks I lack good manners because I tried to get him to take his cream (which I purchased soley for him ) from the carton for his coffee instead of putting it in a pitcher. It was just him, me and the boss here. His Mother said " I was no more than I ought to be"! Hmmm....I wonder how they cope at Tim Horton's? I got a great kick out of it all.
Glad he doesn't have to bring me home to meet her.

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Families with young children

December 2003

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