Raising WordKids…Be WordParents!

Last time I wrote about how important it is for parents to use words around their kids. Here’s my own experience with this:

My dad was a WordMan. He loved to read and he loved the words he read. He loved using the words he read. He loved using them with me and all my siblings (and you can see that his influence still prevails). So as a four-year-old, I was accustomed to being told to stop being obstreperous instead of being told to play quietly.

I didn’t always know precisely what the words meant when I would ask my dad if I could go play outside and he would reply that it might be feasible if I put away my toys first. But I always knew exactly what he meant. Sometimes I would ask him what a certain word meant, and if he felt like expounding, he would tell me. Other times (when I was a little older) I was told to get a dictionary and look it up. Sometimes I would do that and he would help me by explaining the definition. Other times I decided I didn’t care that much about what the word meant anyway. There was never any pressure one way or the other.

Someone asked me recently if it had ever bothered me when my dad did that to me. I had to say no. I never felt like my dad was “doing that” to me but rather that he was just sharing something he loved with someone he loved (me!). Sometimes I was interested and sometimes I wasn’t.

But there’s more. Because of my father’s habit of showering me with words, I feel like they lingered at the edge of my consciousness throughout my early years. When I encountered them again in school or in books, I felt at home with them. I think this was important. I still had to learn exactly what they all meant, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by them. I felt that in a sense, they already belonged to me, that when it came to learning new words, I was already halfway there. I was a WordKid and I didn’t even know it.

It was a very subtle boost to my confidence that my father had given me, maybe even unknowingly. But my WordDad made a huge difference in my life.