Read to your children
iStock/rawpixelParents and children can both benefit from reading bedtime stories snuggled under the covers. “The words in many children’s books are often outside the realm of adults’ day-to-day discourse, so parents can learn more words just by reading to their children,” says Susan B. Neuman, professor of Childhood and Literacy Education at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University in New York City. Here are smart reading habits to instill in young children.
iStock/baonaWatching the movie version of your favorite book isn’t just a guilty pleasure, it’s also a vocabulary booster. “If you see the movie version of your favorite book you’re likely to have a deeper understanding and knowledge of the words in it,” says Neuman. “Seeing and reading something on the same topic is really important.” The phenomenon is called dual coding; you read something, then see it on the screen and end up remembering better because you have a visual representation, she says.
Make good use of your tablet
Next time you’re reading an e-book and come across a word you don’t know, try highlighting it with your finger and looking for the option to look it up. Many tablets provide a dictionary definition in a little bubble, so you wont lose your place or have to switch between Google and your novel. (Would you have to look up these 33 middle school vocabulary words adults still don’t know?)
iStock/mixettoDon’t just flip through your favorite magazine, really read it. That means don’t just look at the pictures or skim product roundups; pay attention to the articles and photo captions. According to the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, magazines on topics you’re interested in like sports, interior decorating, or health are filled with words you probably don’t think to use in your daily conversations. When you read the next issue, keep an eye out for the words you learned the month before; chances are, you’ll remember what they mean this time. (Learn more about why your brain needs you to read every day.)
Listen to how words sound
iStock/atnoydurMany people won’t remember tricky words unless they come across them frequently. But if you hear a word that you think sounds interesting, you become word conscious and start using it yourself, says Neuman. Start with these 9 funny words that boost your vocabulary.
Get out of the house
iStock/leezsnow“Going places and having new experiences are great ways to build new knowledge. Go to a museum or take advantage of other opportunities where you live. When you open your eyes to new experiences and people, you also get new words,” says Neuman. Try sprinkling in these 7 fancy words that make you sound smarter while you're out.
Join a book club
iStock/monkeybusinessimages“Book clubs are a wonderful strategy to learn new words,” says Neuman. Not only will it force you to set aside time in your day to read, it’s also a good way to discover books you might not normally be drawn to, which in turn exposes you to new words. Start with one of these 20 books you really should have read by now.
Listen to the radio
iStock/robederoSpend your commute listening to talk radio or podcasts instead of zoning out. Those types of programs can expose you to topics (and subsequently words) you may not be familiar with. Here are 12 more things successful people do on their commute.
Pay attention to your surroundings
iStock/franckreporterNext time you walk down a busy street or take a walk in the park, try to describe what you’re seeing as descriptively as possible inside your head. This tactic can expose gaps in your vocabulary and provide an opportunity to fill them. While you're at it, use this simple trick that upgrades your vocabulary and makes you sound smart.
Read, read, read
iStock/squaredpixelsTry to make a little time each day to read. “Reading on a regular basis is tied to improved cognitive functioning throughout life because you’re always learning,” says Neuman. Even if you don’t stop to look up every single foreign word, chances are you can figure out their meaning based on the context they’re used in or by coming across them again down the line. As a bonus, here's how reading fiction can make you a better person.