Tag Archives: Reading

Why You Should Expand Your Vocabulary

expand your vocabulary

Do you find yourself utilizing the same word repeatedly? Do you have a hard time expressing yourself clearly? Have you ever wanted to find a more direct way to speak or convey your thoughts to others? All of these happenings and thoughts could be clues that you desire to expand your vocabulary.

But these aren’t the only reasons people should actively work towards refining and expanding their language ability. In fact, they only scratch the surface in terms of reasons for anyone to actively seek to improve their communication skills and expand their vocabulary. From advancing your communication skills, to connecting to people, to having a deeper understanding of the world around you, there are practical and beneficial reasons for actively expanding your vocabulary.

Words Are Our Tools

“Words are instruments, they are tools that, in their different ways, are as effective as any sharp edge or violate chemical. They are, like coins, items of great value, but they represent a currency that, well spent, returns ever greater riches.”

Tim Radford, Address Book: Our Place in the Scheme of Things

Words (after individual letters) are the basic tools humans have for conveying our messages to each other. The words that we choose to use and the way we string them together make all the difference between a message being clearly received by the recipient, or not. The idea that words can be used as social tools is explored in the linked psychology paper.

Think about a time that you had to have a difficult conversation with someone – perhaps with a boss or a loved one that you were upset with but didn’t want to hurt. When it was your turn to speak, did you angrily say whatever words came to mind recklessly? Or were you careful, pausing before speaking to ensure your message was delivered gently? Believe it or not, even if on a subconscious level, you understood in these situations that your words were powerful and had the ability to either make or break the situation.

Salespeople are a group of people that are acutely aware of the power of words. They are trained, or some instinctively know, to stay away from words that sow doubt in the minds of their buyers and will tend to use words that breed positivity or make a buyer feel good about what they are buying.

In each of these instances, the respective speakers are aware of how their words can affect the outcome of the situations in which they are participating. Whether it is completing a sale or having a heart to heart with a loved one, or conducting a professional conversation at work, the words used during these conversations are important, and most people understand this – even if it isn’t something they actively think about.

Expanding your vocabulary to be able to use the precise word needed in any given situation can greatly increase your chances have having the situation work in your favor.

“Language is the key to the heart of people.”
― Ahmed Deedat

When working to connect with people, the words that we use can help bring those connections closer.

Perhaps you have heard the idiom, “you are speaking my language.” There is so much truth to that phrase and there are instances where knowing the vocabulary of the person with whom you are speaking will undoubtedly help you to connect with that person and ultimately achieve whatever objective you are seeking.

Perhaps it is simply to make new friends, court a significant other, complete a sale, or successfully deliver a persuasive message to different people, speaking the language of the people with whom you are trying to connect can lead to better results.

One of the best ways to “speak the language” of your audience is to learn the basis of their language – their vocabulary. So if that person is into music, social justice, manages a company or had a different point of view than you, you need find the way they speak or think, and cater your message to that way of thinking. That task will include needing to understand their vocabulary and the concepts to which they subscribe. But of course, their concepts might be explained using specialized jargon – jargon that you would need to know in order to connect with your audience.

If you want to connect with different people, for any reason, expanding your vocabulary to knowing and understanding theirs is the first best step.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”
― N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

As the late, great Robin William’s character Mr. Kleinbaum so eloquently proclaimed in the above quote – using less advanced vocabulary is in some ways an act of laziness. Especially given the technological advances that have flourished since that inspirational film was released.

Finding the exact word needed to properly convey one’s thoughts is easier than ever now that the internet and Google have been invented. And when it comes to wording a message in the exact way needed to meet an objective, taking a few seconds, or minutes, to search the right word is the least that could be done to get the message right.

Sometimes, crafting a message, even in everyday discussion, can be a labor of love. Adequately preparing can reap rewards ten-fold.

Do your self a favor, take the advice of Mr. Kleinbaum, and use the appropriate advanced word to further your message. Take the time to expand your vocabulary and you can’t go wrong.

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.”
― Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science

It can be argued that the more words you know, the more minutely concepts could be understood which ultimately results in a more robust knowledge base. Just like words are the basic building blocks of communication between humans, they are also the basic building blocks of our knowledge and our thoughts. The higher level verbiage we use translates into a higher level thoughts and thought processes. These higher level thought processes can lead to an expanded understanding.

One example that illustrates this point is the way most science text books are set up. At the beginning of every chapter is a list of vocabulary words that will be utilized during the chapter study. Understanding the meaning of those words and the context in which they are used will help a student to understand the material better.

While it is true that everyone has different learning strategies, I am hoping that I presented enough evidence here to support the idea that expanding your vocabulary is a beneficial activity that can help enhance your life in many ways. From creating or deepening personal relationships to achieving goals and having a deeper understanding about the world around you, expanding your vocabulary is the best first step anyone can take to increase their knowledge.

Do you agree? Do you think it is beneficial to expand your vocabulary? Why or why not?

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Filed under Language Arts, Learning Guides, Vocabulary Words

How to Participate in a Book Club

So you joined a book club, now what?

Perhaps a friend or coworker suggested a book club for you, or there is a book that you have wanted to read for a while and coincidentally an organization is running a book club with your book of choice, so you signed up.

But now the pressure is on. What is the best way to participate and contribute to the book club?

First and foremost, unless you have signed up for a particular duty related to the book club, your main goal for the book club should be your own personal enrichment. It is okay to be selfish with this! You want to get the most out of this book club for yourself. If you do this well, you will find that oddly, it could help others in the group.

What Tools Do You Need

  1. Time – This seems obvious, but be sure to give yourself time to read the book, but also enough time to digest what you read. I will detail this further later in this blog.
  2. Physical notebook or digital notebook – you want to use this tool to gather your thoughts about the reading piece.
  3. The book- you don’t necessarily need to purchase it. You can borrow from the library or a friend.

Get the Most Out of It

“To read without thinking is like eating without digesting.” –Edmund Burke

  1. If your book club provides guide questions, by all means use them! You want to read the guide questions before each chapter. Then, while reading try to find the answers to those questions. Doing this could prepare you for the discussion when the book club meets.
  2. When you are reading, if there is something that really moves you, take a moment to write about it in your physical or digital notebook. Perhaps it is a line that makes you think deeply; or it resonates with something that happened in your own life. Either way, when what you are reading evokes a strong emotion in you, take the time to explore that emotion and write about it. You should notate the particular quote that had an effect on you, along with the page number. The write your thoughts. Some writing prompts for that activity are as follows:
    • This quote made me (angry, sad, happy, nostalgic, etc.) because……
    • This quote reminded me of a time when x happened to me……
    • This saying reminded me of my (friend, family member, loved one, etc.)
    • This quote reminded me of a scene in another book I read. Compare the two.
  3. Write down any questions you have. Maybe something that a character does makes no sense to you. Write a question about it. Maybe you question why the author made a particular choice? Write that question down and bring it to the discussion. You never know, someone else in the group may have the same questions.
  4. Summarize each chapter when its done. If you take no other notes, a great way to take organized notes is to simply summarize each chapter once complete. Doing so can help you navigate through the book quickly while discussing.

What if you Didn’t Read the Book?

Don’t panic. It’s okay – it happens sometimes. Still attend the meeting. If you are put on the spot, just be honest. But listen to what other people have to say about the book. Even though you didn’t read it, listening to other people’s insight can still help you have an understanding of the themes and lessons learned through the story or narrative. And perhaps it will motivate you to read the book. 🙂

I hope that this covers the basics of participating in a book club. If you have any questions or need some further advise, feel free to comment below.

Happy Reading!

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Filed under Language Arts, Reading

How to Overcome Reading Challenges

One of the biggest challenges I have heard people express about reading is being able to stay focused to complete the paragraph, page, chapter or – the entire book. Even if it is a book or article that covers a topic that readers have an interest in, they still can’t seem to find a way to stay focused.

If this describes your reading experience, don’t worry – you are not alone.

The good news is there are several strategies you can utilize to break through this reading setback.

  1. Set your reading environment. If reading is truly a challenge for you, take the extra step of making your reading time and environment conducive to your goal. Sit somewhere that is comfortable and quiet. Make sure the electronics are off or set on silent. Perhaps you could put some peaceful instrumental music on low volume for background noise, if you feel it won’t be a distraction for you. Have any beverages such as coffee, tea, water – or wine if you are of age, and your snack of choice within arms reach to limit any need to get up in the middle of your reading session.
  2. Set your reading intention– Before you start reading, close your eyes, breath deeply for a few breaths. Tell yourself, either in your mind or out loud, “I will read 10 pages today,” or whatever the goal is for the reading session. Say it at least three times. Open your eyes and get to work.
  3. Use your finger to guide your eyes. This may seem like a juvenile method, but it really works well. Sometimes our eyes are lazy. It is so easy for them to wonder to any little distraction that makes its way into your reading environment. By using your finger as your guide, you are forcing yourself to stay focused on each word as your finger passes it. If you are new to reading, do this exercise for short time. For example, perhaps just have the goal to do this with three sentences at a time. Then work your way up to a paragraph at a time. Then two paragraphs and so on until you feel comfortable with it.
  4. Use guide questions – Now that we have found a way to keep our eyes from wandering, we have to find a way to keep our mind focused. Guide questions are a great way to do that. Generally you want to read guide questions before you start reading. The goal is to find the answers to the guide questions while reading. In this way, you are giving your brain a job to do. Reading then becomes a way to find specific information, rather than an activity of deciphering what feels like random information.
  5. Creating questions– If guide questions are unavailable, create your own questions. This can be done by turning chapter heading and subheadings into questions. Then dedicate your reading time to finding answers those questions. Additionally, you can use the 5W questions (who, what, where, when and why) plus how, to create questions for yourself before you begin each and every reading segment. When you take this route, sometimes you will find the answer and sometimes you wont, but either way, it gives your mind a job to do while reading, which can make it easier to focus.

If you aren’t a fluent reader, getting into reading may take some intention and work. However, once you overcome those challenges, reading can be rewarding. Being able to learn on your own time is empowering as is using your brain to complete all the complex processes involved in learning new information through reading.

I do hope these tips work for you! Feel free to comment your experience below.

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Filed under Language Arts, Reading

Goosebumps Book Club 2020

Learning w/ Leigh and Sub Culture present the Goosebumps Book Club for readers grades 3-5.

What better way to introduce the next generation to the excitement of the 90’s than through reading R.L. Stine’s beloved series Goosebumps in a sandwich shop that is so 90’s their menu is bound by a Trapper-Keeper?

The schedule for the book club meetings are below along with links to register for the individual club meetings as well as affiliate links to purchase the books.

October 21Welcome to Dead House – suggested sign up by October 12

November 30Stay Out of the Basement – suggested sign up by November 15

December 28 Say Cheese and Die – suggested sign up by December 12

We will kick off the book club on October 21st at 7pm at Sub Culture on 260 Newark Ave. Jersey City, however we encourage everyone to register by October 12th to give enough time to read the book.

This hybrid in-person/zoom event will have a cap of 6 in-person attendees until further notice.

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Filed under Favorite Reads, Language Arts, Reading

“Who Decides the News?” and Why it is Important for Readers to Understand This

Tragic news about the site moderator.

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Filed under News Literacy