Should a book contain words that are challenging to readers?

Discuss the May 2017 Book of the Month, Farmer Beau's Farm by Kathleen Geiger.

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Should a book contain words that are challenging to readers?

Post by Amagine » 10 May 2017, 06:15

In hsimone's review of Farmer Beau's Farm, she mentions that the book contain words that may be unfamiliar to children such as, "tinkering," "burrowed" and other words. By doing this, the author helps to expand a child's vocabulary.

What's your opinion? Should a book contain words that are challenging to young readers or should it be kept simple? Why?

What about books for adults? Do you like reading books that contain challenging words? Why?
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Post by Gravy » 10 May 2017, 07:11

I love challenging words, so long as the author doesn't make their writing feel like a word-of-the-day calander. I've had this happen, and while it's interesting, it detracts from the story a great deal.
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Post by Christina O Phillips » 10 May 2017, 08:28

I think that's the best way to learn new words: to read it in a story and see how it is used. As long as there are not too many new words and as long as they are not all in the same sentence so that it is overwhelming, I think it is appropriate for their to be new words in children's books. Adult books, too.

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Post by MarisaRose » 10 May 2017, 08:37

This is a really thoughtful question, I love it! I definitely think adding challenging words to books is a positive. As a young child, I remember I learned so much of my vocabulary from reading challenging books. Especially for children, the use of challenging words helps them develop skills to infer meaning through context. As an adult, I still learn a lot from challenging vocabulary in books! As long as children have access to an adult who can help them with challenging words, or know how to use a dictionary (or other similar tools), the use of challenging vocabulary can be really helpful in growing young readers minds.

Great question @amigine :tiphat:
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Post by hsimone » 10 May 2017, 11:47

Thank you for the shout-out, Amagine! When teaching, I used to do Running Records to understand my students' reading level and therefore suggest appropriate independent-reading books. Usually, in order to keep the reader engaged, you need a certain number of new/potentially unfamiliar words - this is their independent/learning level. If there are too many new words, then it becomes a bit too challenging and/or frustrating for the child (needs to be avoided). If the text is too simple, then you risk the child becoming bored.

Overall, children (and adults) need to be challenged, not to the point of frustration, but enough to keep the reader engaged and learning. So, I loved that the author incorporated just enough new words, but not too much that a child could become easily frustrated.
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Post by AlwaysWorthIt » 10 May 2017, 14:13

Of course. I'm a strong believer that any book should have challenging words. If a book is made for a 3rd grader, it should have a word or two made for 4th grade and so on. Reading is supposed to help a person's vocabulary grow. Besides, everyone should be challenged in most things we do. It allows us to grow.
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Post by alpharod22 » 10 May 2017, 17:14

Challenging words are always good for the reason that it expands your vocabulary. For a child, I believe it is something good in order for them to grow more knowledgeable and capture vocabulary more easily. As an adult, I love challenging words. it gives me a thrill to go to the dictionary and find what that word means because it expands my vocabulary. I think it is good to often place challenging words in books.
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Post by GCalkins » 10 May 2017, 19:44

Reading is my favorite way to learn new words and, I think, the least stressful, as I can take the time to look up definitions and pronunciation in a dictionary. So, yes, I think that including words that may be new to certain readers is important in books. There is, however, a line, as I've read a few books where the vocabulary is so obscure that it becomes difficult to take it seriously.

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Post by Amagine » 10 May 2017, 19:44

MarisaRose wrote:This is a really thoughtful question, I love it! I definitely think adding challenging words to books is a positive. As a young child, I remember I learned so much of my vocabulary from reading challenging books. Especially for children, the use of challenging words helps them develop skills to infer meaning through context. As an adult, I still learn a lot from challenging vocabulary in books! As long as children have access to an adult who can help them with challenging words, or know how to use a dictionary (or other similar tools), the use of challenging vocabulary can be really helpful in growing young readers minds.

Great question @amigine :tiphat:
Thank you :D

-- 10 May 2017, 19:45 --
hsimone wrote:Thank you for the shout-out, Amagine! When teaching, I used to do Running Records to understand my students' reading level and therefore suggest appropriate independent-reading books. Usually, in order to keep the reader engaged, you need a certain number of new/potentially unfamiliar words - this is their independent/learning level. If there are too many new words, then it becomes a bit too challenging and/or frustrating for the child (needs to be avoided). If the text is too simple, then you risk the child becoming bored.

Overall, children (and adults) need to be challenged, not to the point of frustration, but enough to keep the reader engaged and learning. So, I loved that the author incorporated just enough new words, but not too much that a child could become easily frustrated.
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Post by hsimone » 11 May 2017, 08:58

:D

I also feel that if the author does a good job at it, then children can use context clues to try and 'guess' the definition before confirming. I loved doing this as a teacher, and I love doing this as an adult! :) For my previous students, I used to present it as a game (sometimes; you don't want to overdo it either). They had to be a skillful detective and use clues to figure out unknown words' definitions. As they got older, it was less of a game and more of a useful reading skill. It helped them comprehend the story more when they were diving deeper into the text than just reading the words.
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Post by kandscreeley » 11 May 2017, 09:08

If no one was ever challenged, we would never learn. I think it's great as long as someone is there to explain the words to the child. At that age, I'm not sure they can be expected to know how to use a dictionary. Also, I think it's a great way to learn new words if the author makes it clear through the pictures or the context what the meaning is.
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Post by hsimone » 11 May 2017, 09:12

kandscreeley wrote:If no one was ever challenged, we would never learn. I think it's great as long as someone is there to explain the words to the child. At that age, I'm not sure they can be expected to know how to use a dictionary. Also, I think it's a great way to learn new words if the author makes it clear through the pictures or the context what the meaning is.
I agree, in this instance, it might be a bit much having a young child look up the word in a dictionary. Perhaps the teacher can look up the word after the kids guess what the word might mean. Or, the classroom can make their own "dictionary" (or individual "dictionaries") after reading and conversing. The new words here could be included with a picture attached to the word, since many preschoolers don't write cohesive sentences.
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Post by cstegmil » 11 May 2017, 10:22

Like others in this post, agree some challenging words in books is a positive. I remember reading a book as a young child and the word chaos was new to me. I asked my parents what it meant (butchering the pronunciation?), but still remember my parents helping me understand. Agree with others who also said as long as a child has access to someone to help them understand and most of the book is not challenging, then it's a positive.
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Post by KiMB00P » 11 May 2017, 11:20

I think it's important to have challenging words for children. It expands their vocabulary and helps them with understanding others in everyday communication as well as helping them to express themselves too.

I grew up only knowing how to speak English but my mother speaks Korean natively. Since my experience with speaking to family was hindered, I'm still learning to this day how to use words to express myself emotionally, which I have struggled with my entire life.

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Post by Donnavila Marie01 » 12 May 2017, 09:18

The field of psychology believes that children can easily learn new languages. New or unfamiliar words from children's story book will widen their vocabulary.
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